Stunned by her friend’s murder, private investigator Darcy McClain is determined to hunt down Sean’s killer. In shock, she returns home to find someone has broken into her home, assaulted her sister, and stolen Bullet, her giant schnauzer.
After Sean’s death, more grisly murders follow, leading the police to suspect a serial killer, but Darcy isn’t convinced. In the course of her investigation, she’s astounded to discover evidence of a high-level government conspiracy to exterminate gays and lesbians. Is Sean’s murder tied to this conspiracy? Could someone in the government have killed him? Darcy vows to track down her friend’s murderer, save Bullet, and discover the truth.
Krapf weaves a captivating tale that will leave readers wanting more of Darcy McClain’s shrewd investigative adventures as she and her bold canine sidekick, Bullet, navigate the clever plot twists in her thrillers.
Darcy rose at dawn, descended the stairs two at a time, and yanked open the front door, eager to read the headlines of her morning Chronicle. She scooped the newspaper off the walk and chuckled as she saw the faces of her two friends plastered across the front page. Never had she been so absorbed in a presidential election.
Before she headed back indoors, she paused to survey the quiet cul-de-sac with its houses stacked close together, their gray outlines awash in the jaundiced glow of the streetlights. No one stirred in the neighborhood. Too early. Even the local cat who loved to sleep on the front porch was nowhere in sight.
A light breeze kicked up. Dead leaves cartwheeled over mowed lawns, and the cold spray from the neighbor’s automatic sprinklers misted her from head to toe. She dodged a second dousing and ducked into the house, collecting Charlene’s skateboard as she entered the foyer.
Freshly brewed coffee drew her to the kitchen. She poured a cup and slid onto the window seat in the breakfast nook to devour every word of the three-page article. Most of the content she already knew, but she never tired of reading about Governor Sean Ireland and Senator Magdalena “Mags” Cortés. Even though Darcy thought she knew her friends, the past few months had brought one shocking piece of information after another. In all the years Darcy had known Sean—dating back to their college days at Stanford Law School—not once had he ever alluded to running for the presidency. When he became governor of California, he claimed he was more than satisfied with his current role and had no intention of running for any other office. Yet a year ago, he declared his candidacy, and in a bold (and some said premature) move, announced his vice presidential candidate, Senator Mags Cortés. Mags and the Latino community had a long-standing love affair, and pundits predicted she would sweep seventy percent of their vote.
While it came as a surprise Sean aspired to be president, it was no revelation Mags was his vice presidential pick. Separately, the two possessed the talent and power to accomplish anything they set their minds to. Together, The Formidable Two, as they had been dubbed by the press, packed an unbeatable punch. Before the election campaign had even started, their opponents admitted their own victory would not come easily, if at all.
Only one factor bothered the American public: the personal relationship between Sean and Mags. Not everyone was keen on the idea of a presidential candidate and his VP running mate potentially marrying. “Conflict of interest,” the opposition protested publicly and frequently, for most assumed the lifelong friends and reported sweethearts would marry one day. Neither refuted the rumors, so they persisted for years—until last month’s press conference, when both had dropped mind-blowing bombshells.
In a secret ceremony, Mags had married billionaire Gaspar Cruz. At the time of her “bolt from the blue,” as the press called it, she and hubby had been married more than six months. But Mags’s revelation paled in comparison with Sean’s shocker: a public proclamation of his sexuality. The majority of his constituents thought the decision to come out was political suicide, but they were wrong. Instead, he clinched the majority of the gay and lesbian vote and won over those who trended liberal, and because of his exemplary track record as senator and then governor, most conservatives chose to overlook his orientation in favor of his ability to bring about real change in government—a talent already proven at the state level.
The mudroom door opened and shut, cutting into Darcy’s thoughts. Charlene strolled into the kitchen with Bullet. The giant schnauzer frogged out on the tiled floor while her sister washed a handful of herbs picked fresh from their garden. Charlene looked relaxed in floral yoga pants, a pink sweatshirt, and pink flip-flops. She wore her long brown hair swept into a ponytail, and a pink headband kept the loose strands away from her oval face. Today her fingernails and toenails sparkled with pink polish.
Darcy inspected her own fingernails, next her toes. Maybe she should take a cue from Charlene and invest in a manicure and pedicure. Or a trip to the salon for highlights. She glanced at her sister. No, one high-maintenance person in the family was enough.
Charlene lowered her sunglasses and leveled her hazel eyes at Darcy. “You aren’t reading about that campaign again, are you?”
Darcy folded the newspaper. “I am.”
Charlene opened the refrigerator door and began setting items on the countertop in preparation for the brunch she promised to fix while on spring break from Stanford. “I’ve never seen you so absorbed in an election. Sean should hire you as his campaign manager. Do you think he stands a chance? Being gay, that is.”
Often her sister took the opposing view simply to create conflict or to get a rise out of Darcy, but today she refused to bite. “Why not? We’ve had a black president and a Catholic president, so why not a gay president with a Hispanic VP? What I care about is his ability and whether he has the intestinal fortitude and bipartisan support to do the job he pledged to do.”
“He’s certainly made a great governor.”
“Yes, he has. By the way, thanks for fixing brunch . . . on your first day of vacation.”
“Better to do it today or I’ll be off doing a gazillion other things and will forget completely.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Tell me, when do you plan to move into the digital age? As in ditch the newspaper and read it online?”
“Never. I love the smell of newsprint in the morning.”
Bullet cocked his head.
Charlene frowned. “Mail? At this hour?”
Light spilled across the entry. An envelope sailed through the mail slot and landed on the tile. In a barking frenzy, Bullet scooted off the floor and limped into the foyer.
Darcy sprang out of her seat and snatched up the letter before Bullet could pounce on it. Baffled by the early delivery, she flung open the front door. “Stay.” Bullet sat. Darcy jogged to the curb and glanced down Mandalay Lane, expecting to see a courier or a departing vehicle of some kind, but the neighborhood of mostly elderly people still slept.
She examined the envelope. Plain white and nothing written on the outside. No courier service had delivered it. She ripped the seal with her fingernail and removed a card along with a check. The note read, “Meet me. 9:00 a.m. Palace of Fine Arts.” No date?
She flipped the check over and whistled low and long. Why would Sean write her a check for 250 grand? A retainer, no less—for the word was scrawled in the memo section. And why hadn’t he rung the bell and stopped in for coffee, or at least for an explanation?
On her way back into the house, she petted Bullet on the head and said, “Good boy,” releasing him from his stay.
The hall clock chimed as she locked the front door. She had better get moving if she planned to be home in time for brunch. And, she was dying to hear why Sean had written her a retainer for a quarter of a million dollars.
“Time to go.” Darcy placed the check and note in the writing desk in the kitchen.
“You haven’t been for your run?”
“Too busy reading the paper. Need anything from the store? Nothing big, of course.”
“Nope,” said Charlene. “I have everything planned, including dessert. Oh, and I gave Bullet his meds for his cut paw.”
“Thanks.” Darcy wiggled into a nylon Windbreaker, grabbed her water bottle off the butcher block, and kissed Bullet between the eyes. He followed her into the mudroom and waited expectantly at the side door that opened onto the driveway. She hated leaving him behind, but the vet had said no running until the cut on his pad healed. She latched the screen door and tested the handle. Lately, Bullet had gotten into the habit of letting himself out of the house. As she walked down the drive, his whines tugged at her heart.
Darcy warmed up with a slow jog as she left Mandalay for Lombard—the most crooked street in the city—and raced up the steep stairs, her knees pumping high, clearing each step with ease.
Leaving Lombard, she sprinted onto Hyde, and ran at a lung-bursting speed toward the fog-shrouded streets of Fisherman’s Wharf. On the harbor, she shot down the waterfront and quickly approached the docks, the slips veiled in white. Although she couldn’t see many of the yachts or sailboats that bobbed in the water, she heard the lap of the surf against their sides and the rasp of metal against wood as they tugged at their moorings.
She peeled away from one pier after another, until the Ferry Building came into view. She reached it and slowed a bit, mindful of the crowds of city workers pouring from the boat terminal, everyone in a hurry to reach their jobs in the downtown districts. She conducted a U-turn, and flew back up the Embarcadero, cutting her normal route short so she wouldn’t miss Sean.
At Pier 23 Charlene crept into Darcy’s mind. Her sister’s friendship with Vicky Lord, a young woman Darcy distrusted, continued to worry her. She had hoped that once Vicky and Charlene no longer roomed together at Stanford, the two would go their separate ways. But no. Vicky had rented a house near campus and had asked Charlene to move in rent-free. In every aspect, Vicky spelled trouble. Dan Gruet, Darcy’s former partner at the FBI, called the tattooed and pierced kid Wild Child.
Darcy’s thoughts skipped from Charlene to Sean’s double shocker. What had prompted him to come out now? “Honesty,” he had said. And what had triggered this sudden decision to run for the highest office in the land? Even more of a mystery, why did he want to hire her and for what, especially at a quarter of a million dollars? She couldn’t think of what service she could be to him.
Her favorite pier came into view. She sidestepped a man power washing the sidewalks and maneuvered around a refrigerator truck parked at the rear of a chowder house. From Pier 39 rose the sharp barks of sea lions. She circled the jetty, sucking in the salty air and pausing briefly to bid a silent good morning to the noisy mammals she had grown so fond of. Life was good. The tension in her neck eased as she again bore down on Fisherman’s Wharf.
Easy, methodical strides propelled her past the shops and restaurants waking to another day. She steered clear of milling tourists, navigated around a group of cyclists, and avoided a collision with a rollerblader preoccupied with texting. Two hours earlier, her normal run time, she would have owned the wharf. Few people appeared before dawn.
Maintaining a steady pace, she sailed along Jefferson until the pavement gave way to the Bay Trail. Flying by the shoreline at a pulse-pounding speed, she navigated around a pedestrian and gained momentum as she set her sights on Fort Mason, gearing up for the trail detour she had been taking ever since the city started their repairs on the retaining wall. She would be glad when they finished. The bypass route led her up a narrow, steep concrete staircase and then connected to an equally narrow walkway before disgorging its occupants onto Upper Fort Mason. Darcy managed the detour without crashing headlong into anyone, or vice versa, and breathed a sigh of relief as she left the park for Marina Boulevard.
Rejuvenated, Darcy increased her tempo as she neared the intersection of Scott and Marina, her feet striking the pavement in a rhythmic thump, thump, thump, the sound suddenly overridden by the louder, heavier slaps of sneakers on pavement. Another runner. She glanced over her shoulder.
Someone barreled into her. She hit the sidewalk. Pain shot through her lower back as her butt landed on concrete. Dazed, she stared at the black man towering over her. Without a word of apology or any attempt to help her, he dashed into the busy boulevard. Horns honked and someone cursed the man.
“Jackass,” Darcy muttered. She scrambled to her feet, retrieved her water bottle, and brushed dirt from her shorts, eager to be on her way. She didn’t want to miss Sean, assuming the note meant today. This was her normal running route, and he knew it since they often ran together, so on any given day she was likely to bump into him anyway.
As Darcy stood across from Lyon Street, waiting for the signal light to change, an orange sun cut through the lifting fog. Ahead loomed the Palace of Fine Arts, its ornate dome glowing copper red under the morning rays. She dropped to a walk, surprised to see the entire area cordoned off with barricades and a phalanx of San Francisco’s finest blocking all avenues into the monument.
Two officers broke from the crowd and said in unison, “Presidio is closed, ma’am.”
“What happened?” she asked, not expecting an answer.
“Come back another time,” the traffic cop said, his hand resting possessively on his holster.
Darcy turned to retrace her steps, hoping to approach the rotunda from a different route. In the distance, sirens shattered the peace. Their shrill whines grew louder as wave after wave of emergency vehicles and squad cars flooded the Presidio, choking off every artery. The invasion continued until the peaceful community swarmed with law enforcement. Front doors opened, and residents gathered on their porches or the sidewalks to gawk at the commotion.
She zipped her Windbreaker to conceal her shoulder rig and snuck between the vehicle-flanked streets to where a crowd had assembled at a police barrier. “What happened?”
“Cops won’t say,” said one of the cyclists milling around the barricade. “All I know is, the streets are crawling with cops.”
“We should’ve stayed at the Golden Gate,” complained another cyclist, her head bent as she examined the toe clips attached to her bicycle pedals.
A jogger stopped in front of the growing crowd of onlookers. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“Not sure,” Darcy answered.
“Must be serious,” he said, panting. “Police are going door-to-door asking if anyone saw anything, and I heard they’ve sealed off all roads within a one-mile radius. Whatever happened must be big.”
An ambulance nosed past them, tailed by a white SUV with San Francisco Medical Examiner on the side. The vehicles parked at the curb just as two vans careened onto the grounds. The letters stenciled on the compartment doors read kxtv.
A young policeman posted at the barricade shouted, “Tell them to get lost!”
A fellow officer who looked like he’d been on the force since the Kennedy administration gave the younger policeman a tired look. “At least keep them at bay.”
Someone called out a hello to Tony Barazza, the chief medical examiner and a friend of Darcy’s. Not wanting to be seen by Barazza at this particular moment, she blended into the crowd and watched him elbow his way through the throng along with Martinez, an investigator from the coroner’s office.
“Geary ordered the area sealed off,” an officer passed the word. “The entire palace area. Understood?”
“Got it,” another officer answered.
Darcy moved to the sidelines, searching for a weak point in the stronghold of blue, but all she saw were reinforcements and medics arriving by the minute. The chaos escalated. She slunk to the rear of the crowd, and crossed the pavement to Palace Drive. The street wrapped the back side of the palace grounds. No one confronted her, so she walked on and had almost reached the other side of the monument when she spotted two uniformed officers patrolling Lyon and Bay and another two loitering on the last stretch of lawn between her and the palace. To avoid suspicion, she met them midway.
“Officers, hi. Maybe you can help me.”
“The grounds are closed,” said the taller of the two. “You have to leave. Now.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know.” She headed back up Palace Drive, mind busy working out her next move. She glanced behind her. The officers were gone, so she walked briskly toward Bay, not at all surprised to see the policeman chatting with fellow officers at a police barricade on Lyon. She slipped among the parked cars and spied on them.
A man wearing a khaki jacket and pants appeared on the sidewalk. He took keys from his pocket and crossed the street to a row of cars. One of the officers at the Lyon roadblock homed in on him.
“Hey, you. Yes, you!” the policeman hollered. “Who gave you permission to enter the area?”
“I didn’t realize I needed permission, Officer . . .?”
“Osborn. Let’s see some identification.”
“Sure.” The man handed over his driver’s license.
Osborn studied the stranger’s face against the photograph on the license. “Jesús Santiago?”
“Yes, sir. Can I go now?”
“Are you in a hurry?” Osborn handed back the license.
“Frankly, yes sir, I am. My client needs ten blowups—enlargements—and they’re due tomorrow.” Santiago unlocked a dilapidated Volkswagen van and leaned into the driver’s side.
“When did you arrive at the palace?”
“Dawn. And I’m not here to tour the palace, but the Presidio.” Santiago sneezed twice. “Allergies.”
“What have you been doing all this time?”
“Shooting birds. With a camera, of course. I’m a professional photographer. My client owns Tweety Bird Feeds, a seed company outside Oakland.”
Osborn grunted. “Open your backpack.”
Stiff from crouching, Darcy shifted her weight from one leg to the other, giving her a better vantage point.
Santiago released the nylon buckle, shrugged off the rucksack, and rested it gently on the ground.
Santiago complied. “Cameras. Lenses. Water.”
“The palace grounds are closed to all traffic, including pedestrians. The officers posted at the Marina barricade will point you to the detour route.”
Santiago shook his head. “Great. Another delay.”
“Good day, sir, and thank you for your cooperation.” Osborn radioed a fellow officer. “Kenton, Osborn. A white Volkswagen van is headed your way. Direct him to the detour. After he leaves, radio me.”
Seconds after Santiago’s van dipped from view, Osborn’s two-way radio squawked. “He’s gone? Good. Thanks, Kenton.” Osborn walked across the lawn and disappeared from view.
Rocking forward, Darcy prepared to stand, but she felt a slight tug followed by a tearing sound. Something had snagged her jacket. She bent down to free her Windbreaker and noticed the license plates on the sports car parked beside her: eql ryts. Sean’s car. He must be somewhere in the Presidio. She placed a hand on the hood to raise herself. The metal was cool to the touch. The car had been here a while.
She swept the area and immediately spotted Detective Walter Ortiz, a cop she knew well from a previous case. He and several other officers lingered at the fringe of the parking lot. The party broke up, and Officer Fillmore, a rookie from the Central Station, began his patrol of the area. She had an idea. Not original, but few were. She pulled out her PI license and advanced on Fillmore, calling out as she approached, “Have you seen Detective Ortiz?”
As she hoped, her assertiveness threw Fillmore, who had been on the force for a month. “Oh, hi, Detective McClain. He’s in the rotunda. Why?”
“He’s expecting me.”
“Really?” Fillmore hesitated. “I’ll show—”
“Thanks, I know the way.”
Darcy pretended not to hear. She crossed the greenbelt at a fast walk. Out of sight of Fillmore, she veered onto a walkway, dived into the shrubs bordering the lagoon, and ducked under the yellow crime scene tape, one end of which was anchored to a tree trunk, the other tied around a colonnade.
She stole to the nearest wall and kept low for cover. A team of three stationed at the archway milled about. One carried a logbook, his job to sign in and out anyone who entered or exited the monument.
A gentle breeze stirred the scent of freshly mown grass, and muffled voices filtered from the rotunda, the words inaudible. She leaned sideways for a better view, her shoulder against the pillar for leverage. Detective Geary, a bald man pushing fifty, threw out his chest and sucked in his gut as he joined five of his officers and two plainclothes cops huddled at the palace entrance. Barazza and Martinez lingered nearby, talking in low voices. Barazza noticed Geary and headed toward the officer. A short conversation ensued. Geary spewed expletives, slapped Barazza on the back, and rejoined his men for another gab session.
Suddenly, the group exploded in loud argument, and two uniformed officers broke from the tight-knit assembly. The men seemed agitated, pacing and puffing nervously on cigarettes, apparently contemplating something important. Then the loop tightened and the heated debate continued. Curiosity ate at Darcy.
As time passed, gathering clouds blocked the sun, and shadows dulled the silhouettes inside the monument, making it difficult to discern one figure from another, especially from her angle and when most wore blue.
“Hey, get those lights in here.” Geary bellowed his directive.
Officers scurried into the theater. They unpacked tripods equipped with high-wattage spotlights and arranged them in a semicircle. Bright floodlights doused the honey-colored walls in blinding white.
“Okay, everyone out.” Geary’s gruff voice resonated through the dome.
People scattered. Darcy’s pulse quickened. On the ground sprawled a man, his back to her, one arm tucked under his body and his head partially hidden. He wore brown Dockers, loafers, and a white shirt. She craned her neck to catch a closer look, but the angle wouldn’t allow for a clear view. A policewoman stepped forward and covered the body with a blanket. Darcy eased off the concrete ledge to the ground and paused, thinking through the best approach to access the rotunda.
A hand closed on her shoulder. “Seen enough?”
She spun. “Osborn. Hi.”
Osborn leaned sideways, his gaze toward the rotunda. “Hey, Hilton. Come here.”
A short, dark-haired man in his mid-thirties strutted in their direction. Hilton, too, was new to the force, not a rookie but a transfer from LA. He saw Darcy and shook his head. “McClain, how in the hell did you get past the command post? Shit, Geary’s going to blow his top. Sir!” Hilton shouted to his boss. “I need you for a minute.”
“I’m coming,” said Geary. Darcy had tangled with him on many investigations, the outcome never good. He put an unlit cigar between his lips and scratched his silver-and-brown mustache with his thumb. The minute he laid eyes on her, his slow gait increased to a fast shuffle. “You working this job, McClain? No, so scat.” To Hilton, Geary shouted, “Goddamn it. Who’s sleeping on the job? I want names. Do you hear me, Hilton? Names.”
Geary turned back to Darcy. “Well, what are you doing here, McClain?”
“Out for a jog.”
Geary snickered. “Right.”
“Detective. Sir,” an officer called to Geary.
“Yeah, Beckwith? What is it?”
“Press wants to interview you. They want to know if you can ID the guy.”
“Tell the assholes I’m trying to conduct a murder investigation plus deal with other crap.” He cocked his thumb at Darcy. “Now back to work and find the damn murder weapon.”
“Yes, sir. Sir, what is the murder weapon?” asked Beckwith.
“The hell if I know. Just keep searching.”
A tall, distinguished-looking black man in a tan suit sauntered over to Geary. Darcy liked Detective Ortiz, a man with a conscience, for God knows Geary had none.
“Darcy, hi.” A smile brightened Ortiz’s stern face, and his hand shot out.
She shook it. “Good to see you again.”
Geary muttered something, followed by, “Okay, you two, cut the sweet stuff. We’re here on business.”
Ortiz glanced at his cell phone. “MacDonald says he found something interesting.”
“Oh?” Geary’s dour expression brightened. “Let’s talk over there. Where it’s private.”
After a few moments, Ortiz motioned to Darcy to come over.
Geary cursed. “No reason to involve her whatsoever. None.” Darcy didn’t hear Ortiz’s reply, only Geary’s loud bark. “Okay, okay. So let her identify the victim. Then she leaves.”
Ortiz made eye contact. His sad expression carried a warning: “This won’t be easy.” And his demeanor said she knew the victim. He walked her to where the body lay. A cool breeze rustled the bushes, tousling Darcy’s damp hair. A shiver skidded along her spine, and sweat beaded on her upper lip. It seemed like an eternity until he pulled back the blanket.
“I’m so sorry.” Ortiz touched her shoulder.
Numb, Darcy knelt, one hand on the ground to steady herself, her knees weak and her brain denying what her eyes clearly saw. “How did he die?”
“Don’t answer.” Geary stepped in front of Darcy. “Now stand, McClain.”
“It does no harm to give her a minute.” Ortiz grabbed Geary’s arm and led him away from the body. Begrudgingly, Geary went along.
Darcy stared at her friend, lying lifeless on the cold ground. Disbelief and sadness tore at her heart, and tears stung her eyes. Through blurred vision, she whispered her goodbye. “I’ll miss you, Sean.”
Excerpt from Genocide by Pat Krapf. Copyright © 2017 by Pat Krapf. Reproduced with permission from Pat Krapf. All rights reserved.
Patricia “Pat” Krapf is a full-time writer and author of the acclaimed Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series.
She and her husband live in Texas with their giant schnauzer Bullet, who at a hundred pounds has found his way into the plot of his master’s books.
Pat was an active member of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Writers’ Workshop for ten years and is now a member of several professional writing organizations, including Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She frequents Bouchercon and the DFW Writers Conference. Her second book, Gadgets, won the Betty L. Henrichs Award for Best Publishable Mystery.
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