The Publix at Hollywood Plaza is busy. Edgar Allan Pogue walks through the parking lot with his plastic grocery bags, his eyes moving in all directions as he scans for anybody noticing him. No one does. If someone did, it wouldn't matter. No one will remember him or think of him. No one ever does. Besides, he is only doing what is right. A favor to the world, he thinks as he passes along the edges of the light shining down from tall lamps in the parking lot. He keeps to the shadows and walks briskly but not anxiously.
His white car is like about twenty thousand other white cars in South Florida, and he has parked it in a far corner of the lot between two other white cars. One of the white cars, the Lincoln that was parked to the left of him earlier, is no longer there, but as destiny dictated, another white car, this one a Chrysler, took its place. At magical, pure times like this, Pogue knows he is being watched and guided. The eye watches. He is guided by the eye, by the higher power, the god of all gods, the god who sits on top of Mount Olympus, the biggest god of all gods, who is incomprehensibly more immense than any movie star or person who has an attitude and thinks she is an almighty herself. Like her. Like the Big Fish.
Using the remote to unlock his car, he opens the trunk and lifts out another bag, this one from All Season Pools. In the front seat of his white car, he sits in the warm darkness, debating whether he can see well enough for the task at hand. Lights from the lamps in the parking lot barely reach the outer limits where he sits, and he waits for his eyes to adjust, and they do. Inserting the key into the ignition, he turns on the battery so he can listen to music, and he pushes a button on the side of his seat to move it as far back as it will go. He needs plentv of room to work, and his heart trips into gear as he opens the plastic bag and pulls out a pair of thick rubber gloves, a box of granulated sugar, a bottle of generic soda pop, rolls of aluminum foil and duct tape, several large permanent markers, and a package of peppermint chewing gum. The inside of his mouth has tasted like stale cigars ever since he left his apartment at six p.m. He can't smoke now. Smoking another cigar gets rid of the stale, dirty tobacco taste, but he can't smoke now. Peeling the wrapper off a stick of gum, he curls the gum into a tight roll and places it inside his mouth and then opens two more sticks and does the same thing, making himself wait before he lets his teeth sink into the three rolls of gum, and his salivary glands explode painfully, like needles shooting through his jaws, and he begins to chew, in big, hard chews.
He sits in the dark, chewing. Soon annoyed with rap music, he seeks other channels until he finds what is called adult rock these days, and he opens the glove box and pulls out a Ziploc plastic pouch. Coils of black human hair press against the clear plastic as if he has a human scalp inside. He carefully withdraws the soft curly wig and pets it as he looks at the ingredients of his alchemy on the passenger's seat. He starts the car.
The pastels of downtown Hollywood float past like a dream, and the tiny white lights strung in the palms are galaxies as he moves through space and feels the energy of what's next to him on the passenger's seat.
He turns east on Hollywood Boulevard and drives exactly two miles per hour below the speed limit toward the A1A highway. Up the road the Hollywood Beach Resort is massive and pale pink and terra-cotta, and on the other side of it is the sea.
Dawn is on the ocean and tangerine and rose spread along the dusky blue horizon as if the sun is a broken egg. Rudy Musil pulls his combat green Hummer into Lucy's driveway and pushes the remote to open her electric gate, and instinctively he looks around, looks everywhere and listens. He doesn't know why, but he is so unsettled this morning that he jumped out of bed and decided he would check on Lucy's house.
The black bars of the metal gate slowly roll open, shuddering at intervals along the track because it curves, and although the gate is curved too, it doesn't like curves, it seems. Just one of many design flaws, Rudy often thinks when he comes to Lucy's salmon-color mansion. The biggest design flaw of all was the one she made when she bought this damn house, he thinks. Living like a filthy rich damn drug dealer, he thinks. The Ferraris are one thing. He can understand wanting the best cars and the best helicopter. He likes his Hummer, for that matter, but it's one thing to want a rocket or a tank and another thing to want an anchor, a huge gaudy anchor.
He noticed it when he pulled into the driveway but he doesn't take a second look or think anything about it until he pulls past the open gate and gets out of the Hummer. Then he backtracks to pick up the newspaper and sees the flag is up on the mailbox. Lucy doesn't get mail at her house and she isn't home to put the flag up. She wouldn't put the flag up even it she were home. All deliveries and outgoing mail are handled at the training camp and office a half hour south in Hollywood.
This is weird, he thinks, and he walks over to the mailbox and stands near it, the newspaper in one hand, the other hand pushing his sun streaked hair down because it is in cowlicks tins earl) morning. He hasnt shaved or showered either, and he needs to. All night he thrashed about, sweating in bed, unable to get comfortable no matter what he did. He looks around, thinking. No one is out. No one is jogging or walking the dog. One thing he certainly has noticed about this neighborhood is that people keep to themselves and don't enjoy their rich homes or even their modest ones. Rarely does anyone sit on the patio or use the pool, and those who have boats rarely go out in them. What a weird place, he thinks. What an unfriendly, peculiar, nasty place, he thinks, angrily.
Of all places to move, he thinks. Why here? Why the hell here? Why the hell do you want to be around assholes? You've broken all your rules, Lucy, every one of them, Lucy, he thinks as he yanks open the mailbox door and looks inside and instantly jumps to one side. He backs up ten feet without thinking and his adrenaline kicks in before what he's seeing registers.
"Shit!" he says. "Holy shit!"
Downtown traffic is bad, as usual, and Scarpetta is driving because Marino is moving slowly. The injuries to places best not discussed seem to be his greatest source of pain, and he is walking slightly bowlegged and was awkward when he climbed into the SUV a few minutes earlier. She knows what she saw, but the outraged reddish-purple hue of fragile tissue was nothing more than a silent scream compared to the loud noise pain must be making now. Marino will not be himself for a while.
"How are you feeling?" she asks him again. "I'm trusting you to tell me." What she means is implicit. She's not going to ask him to take off his clothes one more time. She will look at him if he asks, but she hopes it won't be necessary. Besides, he won't ask.
"I think I'm better," he replies, staring out at the old police department on 9th Street. The building has looked bad for years, paint peeling and tiles around the top border missing. Now it looks worse because it is silent and empty. "I can't believe how many years I wasted in that joint," he adds.
"Oh come on." She flips up the blinker and it click-clicks like a loud watch. "That's no way to talk. Let's don't start the day with that kind of talk. I'm trusting you to tell me if the swelling gets worse. It's very important you tell me the truth."
"I put the iodine stuff on myself this morning."