Lieutenant Horatio Caine leads a crack team of forensic scientists who investigate crimes amid the tropical surroundings and cultural crossroads of Miami. Together, they collect and analyze the evidence to expose the truth and to bring justice to those who often cannot speak for themselves: the victims.
Crime boss Kurt Wallace was fighting to hold his vast crime empire together -- until a few well-placed bullets ended the struggle. As a host of dangerous "business interests" move in to seize control of Wallace's piece of the Miami underworld, Caine's CSIs must piece together the evidence to discover who was responsible for the crime that all of Miami had a motive to commit.
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Max Allan Collins is a New York Times bestselling author of original mysteries, a Shamus award winner and an experienced author of movie adaptions and tie-in novels. His graphic novel Road to Perdition has been made into a major motion picture by Tom Hank’s production company. He is also the author of the tie-in novel series based on the original CSI.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1: Storm Warning
Cobalt waves lashed the beach, whipcracking as they broke, the gray sky deceptively placid, accepting of the storm gathering just beyond the horizon. This was a cool time of year for the greater Miami area, but something nasty was coming. Something hot, and not weather.
Here and there empty hotels seemed like great tombstones, as if the city were slowly turning into a cemetery, however much the remainder of the skyline greeted the Atlantic with glittering optimism. Tonight, the ocean seemed unconvinced, moving in like a dark-hooded figure with a scythe, the threat of the impending storm growing more absolute by the minute and Miami Beach's neon welcome ever more strained as the sky went from gray to charcoal to now very nearly black.
Along Ocean Drive, with only the thin emerald strip of Lummus Park between concrete and roiling water, cars passed in their usual slow parade while the well-lighted line of Art Deco hotels studded the darkening sky with their vibrant pink-blue-yellow geometry. Occasional storefronts in the row of businesses were dark now, gaps in the street's commercial smile, the stiff competition of South Beach killing off the weak. Still, despite the strobe flashes of lightning at sea, a party atmosphere managed to thrive.
This was Miami Beach, after all, and there was a reputation to uphold -- not necessarily a good reputation, but a compelling one for the young of all ages.
Hundreds of pedestrians, mostly tourists, strolled up and down the west side sidewalk, gawking at menu boards, confronted by hard-bodied, navel-baring, pretty hostesses who hawked their restaurants and hotels (each "the best" along this pastel strip).
At every stop, the pedestrians were inundated with pulsing music that poured as easily from assorted sound systems as the liquor in every South Beach bar. Cool jazz rolled from the Tides, reggae from the Breakwater, classic soul from the Leslie, and so on down the row, the only pauses coming as the rubberneckers passed the vacant husks of dead rival clubs.
At the Archer Hotel -- a three-story, white stucco building with mint-green-and-pink trim -- both the lobby bar and front dining terrace were jammed with patrons apparently not put off by what the sky might bring. Sixties rock blared from state-of-the-art speakers, and a queue of potential diners stood near the hostess stand on the front walk, seemingly oblivious to the storm knifing toward the coast.
The distant rumble of thunder was lost in the prominent bass line of the Spencer Davis Group ripping through "Gimme Some Lovin'." Here and there, diners tapped their feet to the familiar, infectious beat, while a few others tapped silverware on the table, keeping time with the pounding drums. At a square table, at the south end of the open front porch, however, the four men seated there seemed to not notice the music at all.
With his back to the window that looked in on the lobby bar, Kurt Wallace gave not a thought to the possibility of getting shot.
The burly, well-dressed men seated to his left and right as he faced Ocean Drive were security staff who'd been with him for years. On his right, the pug-faced Cummings watched the street. On Wallace's left, Stevens eyed the restaurant, the watchdog's head seeming to swivel from side to side without the benefit of a neck.
A third bodyguard, Anthony, was out of sight inside the bar, but he, too, was a longtime employee, and Wallace trusted the wide-bodied ex-pro footballer (a lineman, of course) to cover his back. The small security contingent's custom-fitted suits -- Anthony's was black, Cummings was in brown, and Stevens's a gray pinstripe -- helped them fit in to the Miami Beach nightlife, even while that expensive tailoring hid the fact that they were heavily armed.
One of the best haberdasheries in the city took care of Wallace's boys; as for their employer, tonight he had chosen an Armani suit, tailored especially for him.
Tall, with curly black hair showing flecks of gray, Wallace was handsome and knew it. What might have been conventional, male-model good looks -- his long straight nose sat absolutely perpendicular to the thin line of his mouth, for example -- had an edge, thanks to dark brown eyes that seemed always to suggest anger or cruelty or both, depending on the light, the angle, and, of course, his mood. Thick dark slashes of eyebrow provided punctuation whenever his expression changed.
With the assassination of Peter Venici earlier this year, Wallace had solidified himself as the new padrone of organized crime in Miami. For perhaps a decade, Wallace had dreamed and schemed of this rise to the top. But right now, the all-American businessman who had finally displaced the old Sicilian Mafia leadership was wondering if killing Venici had really been worth it.
Though he now controlled the docks, the unions, prostitution, and most illegal gambling, Kurt Wallace found himself constantly battling the youthful gangs that had matured into mini-cartels in recent years, stealing away much of his drug business. The most bothersome were Las Culebras, the group of second- and third-generation Cuban-Americans once headed by Juan "El Patan" Padillo.
That Padillo, known in certain circles as Johnny the Slouch, had been "disappeared" by Venici was no great secret, and Wallace had figured the Culebras might be a new ally when he dispatched the crime boss.
It hadn't turned out that way.
Las Culebras' new leader, Antonio Mendoza, seemed to hate Wallace even more than he had Venici. That Wallace had betrayed Venici -- however despised the old-school mob boss might have been -- labelled Wallace a traitor to Mendoza. Didn't these young punks understand how business worked? That the occasional unfriendly takeover was to be expected?
Las Culebras weren't the only ones horning in on Wallace's drug trade, either; the list was depressingly long -- the Mitus from Colombia; the Faucones, whose headquarters were in Little Haiti; the Trenches, named after the famous Kingston slum; and even those self-styled neo-Nazi meth freaks from upstate...all of them intent on helping themselves to slices of the Venici pizza.
If he'd known it was going to be this much trouble, Wallace wondered if he still would have made his move on Venici.
Who was he trying to kid? He already knew the answer: of course he would.
Kurt Wallace may have looked like a fashion-plate slickster, but at heart he was a fighter, and he wasn't about to let anyone come in and divide his territory among themselves.
Which was why he was having dinner at the Archer Hotel with Sonny Spencer tonight. The current situation was, in fact, the only imaginable reason he could conjure up that would have him even consider sitting down with the slimy likes of Spencer.
Spencer was a representative of what was referred to nowadays as the Dixie Mafia. In his white suit jacket over a pastel T-shirt and jeans, Spencer apparently thought Miami Vice was the latest thing.
The blond neo-Nazi sat across the table from Wallace, his blue eyes fixed in a squint that Wallace assumed was meant to make him look tough, when the effect was of myopia. Granted, he was a lieutenant -- and nephew -- of Billy Joe Spencer, head of the outfit Wallace hoped to strike a deal with...but Spencer was not exactly one of the best and brightest of his outfit.
Consider that Spencer had consented to coming alone and was right now also sitting with his back to the busy street. On the other hand, Spencer's apparent lack of precaution reflected something of which he and Wallace were both well aware: The younger Spencer had nothing to fear from Kurt Wallace.
Truth was, right now Wallace needed any allies he could muster in a war that seemed to be bearing down on him just as inexorably as the approaching storm was heading for the coast.
So it was that these two competitors between whom no love was lost sat preparing for a dinner that both hoped would end in a peace accord that would allow each side not only to survive but also to prosper in this world of ever-present danger.
Picking up his menu, Spencer said, "Seriously, Kurt -- we're gonna need each other when all these lowlifes come outta the woodwork after what's rightfully ours."
Kurt Wallace nodded agreement even as he pondered just how much he hated the ignorant asshole across from him.
He seriously wondered if the price of survival might not be too steep if it meant lying down with the flea-ridden dogs that Sonny Spencer represented. Still, it was only business -- the first rule being, it doesn't matter who you sell your goods to; and the second being, it doesn't matter who you do business with. Let this so-called superman obsess on race all he wanted; the only color Kurt Wallace cared about was green....
And Wallace had to do something before Las Culebras and the others figured out how tenuous his new position truly was.
"And I think we oughta start with these candy-ass Culebras," Spencer said.
"No, Sonny," Wallace said. "I can't agree."
Spencer frowned, as if forming a thought were painful.
"Let's start," Wallace said with his most charming smile, "with dinner."
Sonny beamed. "Frickin' A," he said, and focused his tortured attention back on the menu.
Actually, this idiot was right. Though every one of these former street-punk crime factions seemed to be lining up to take their shot at Wallace's holdings, Las Culebras were at the forefront of his thoughts.
By taking over Venici's business interests, Wallace had somehow inherited Las Culebras' animosity toward Venici.
It had been Venici who'd used that team of retired hitters from New Jersey, making "El Patan" disappear from the planet -- not Wallace! The Jersey hit team was gone now, one dead, the other two in jail. With Venici dead, the matter should have been closed.
Beyond Las Culebras and the competition from gangs, both Miami-Dade P.D. and the Feds were turning up the heat on Wallace's operations across the board. Not just the drugs -- hell, he expected that -- but gambling, prostitution, and everything from loan-sharking to construction, all coming under ever closer scrutiny.
Two cops in particular had been making Wallace's life miserable of late. Horatio Caine, that hot-shot Crime Scene Unit supervisor with Miami-Dade, had taken down the Jersey retiree hit team, which had opened a real investigative can of worms on local organized crime.
Even worse, DEA agent Jeremy Burnett was constantly intervening in Wallace's drug business. Aiding and abetting that Goody Two-shoes was Kenneth LaRussa, a U.S. attorney who prosecuted everyone in the city caught with anything more potent than a bottle of aspirin.
Turning to Cummings and Stevens, Wallace said, "You fellas might as well order, too."
Often the security boys ate later, but Wallace felt safe enough, here in the middle of a South Beach tourist trap. Wordlessly, the two bodyguards lifted their menus.
Picking up his own, Wallace wondered if he could talk Spencer into hitting any or all three of the law enforcement agents in question. A dangerous course of action, but if the credit and blame went to this group of malcontents from upstate, the reactive heat would be focused there.
Ideally, Wallace would have the law enforcement agents gone, and eventually the Spencers, too. With a faint smile, he read the menu, thinking that everything might work out after all.
Wallace decided on the fillet of sole and looked up, his eyes meeting Spencer's.
The blond man was saying, "Hope you don't mind if I order the porterhouse. I ain't much for fish."
"Order whatever..." Wallace frowned.
"You okay, Mr. Wallace?"
"Yes. Order anything you like, Sonny. My treat."
Spencer was grinning greedily now, reexamining the menu in search of other high-priced fare, but Wallace's eyes were on the street.
He had just realized that something was wrong. The music still blared in the background ("Goin' back to Miami!"), and because of that he hadn't noticed, at first, the silence gathering on the street. But, looking past Spencer, he could see that no cars were passing by in front of the hotel. Cars on Ocean Drive were as constant as the tide itself, and seeing no traffic, an absence extending all the way to the corner, sent warning bells ringing inside Wallace's head.
Cummings, sensing his boss's alarm, looked up from his menu, his eyes following the path of Wallace's concerned gaze, and saw the same disturbing thing. They both heard the squeal of tires at the same instant...and then time slowed for Wallace as he took in a silver car fishtailing around the corner to nudge a parked car, then come speeding south toward the Archer.
Some detached part of his mind drew fascination from this mini-spectacle, clearly seeing the head and shoulders of a Hispanic man protruding from the passenger side window.
He had large brown eyes, dark skin, curly black hair (Not unlike my own, Wallace thought, when I was younger), and a mustache so thick and black that Wallace wondered if it might be fake.
The passenger's mouth was open wide, his teeth bared, very white against his skin and the background of the black sky. The man seemed to be yelling something, but Wallace could not understand the words.
To Wallace's right, Cummings shouted something; but Kurt couldn't pick out those words either -- they too seemed drawn out, in this slow-motion dreamscape -- and his eyes remained riveted on the man in the car. Now he saw the brutish AK-47 in the brown hands, its barrel swinging in the direction of the Archer Hotel Cafe, the round drum of the magazine hanging down like a hornet's nest beneath the weapon, ready to sting when disturbed.
parThough the assassin was being tossed about by the swerving car, the man's moves seemed steady, almost elegant to Wallace, weirdly balletic, the colors so very bright as yellow and orange flames flowed from the barrel.
The crime boss heard people screaming and his two bodyguards were on their feet now, Stevens reaching under his suitcoat for his gun while Cummings moved toward Wallace with an obvious intent to shield his boss. Sonny Spencer's eyes went wide with wonder, and he, too, rose, his mouth moving, but again Wallace couldn't make out any words. Everyone seemed to be talking at once around him, and yet Wallace perceived himself in a vacuum of silence.
Then Spencer's lips stopped moving and crimson streamers of blood ribboned out of his mouth, slashing the air as he spun around, scarlet flowers blossoming from his white sports coat as he toppled.
Cummings's massive arm passed in front of Wallace, then slipped away as the bodyguard trembled and grunted and crashed through the interior window behind him, something Wallace more sensed than saw, unable to tear himself away from the hitman in the car. The vehicle was nearly past them now, and Wallace's eyes locked with those of the killer.
Still caught up in fleeting seconds that felt like lingering minutes, Wallace heard Stevens's gun clatter to the tile floor as the bodyguard went down. The assassin smiled at Wallace, and flame leapt from the weapon's barrel, and Wallace felt like he'd been prodded in the chest, once, twice, and then a third time, as if an obnoxious know-it-all had been thumping his chest with a thick forefinger, making a point.
Suddenly he was on his back looking up at the black sky. He had no idea how he'd ended up like this, but when he went to get up, no matter how he tried, he couldn't. An invisib...
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Book Description Pocket Star, 2004. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0743480562
Book Description Pocket Star, 2004. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0743480562
Book Description Pocket Star, 2004. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110743480562
Book Description Pocket Star. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0743480562 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0300721