There are some waves you shouldn’t ride. Boone Daniels has always known this but realizes it anew as he drops a microsecond late into an eight-foot left whipped up by an offshore wind.
It’s winter and the Dawn Patrol is out in force—not at their usual spot off Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach but way up at Swami’s, where the big north swell that just arrived is going off.
Johnny Banzai is out there, and Dave the Love God. High Tide and Sunny Day and Hang Twelve. Boone’s crew. His people, his friends.
It’s high tide, no beach, and a wicked backwash bounces off the bluff. Boone tries to check out, but the wave won’t let him. It holds him in, then bounces him and he knows he’s going off the board and there’s nothing he can do but wait it out.
The hydrodynamics change and he feels the leash jerk his ankle as the board shoots ahead, pulling him into the bluff. The physics won’t let him bend up and unsnap the leash. Every serious surfer practices for this, trains to hold his breath, not panic and keep track of which way is up so that when the wave finally releases him, he won’t do further damage by plunging down instead of up.
The wave crashes him against the bluff and he turns to take the blow on his shoulder. There’s a moment of calm that he uses to grab his leash and climb up it to the surface, where he sees another wave about to roll in on him.
He ducks and it smashes him against the bluff again.
Boone comes up and thankfully that was the last of the set and he can make it to the narrow stretch of shore south of the point.
He’s bruised and cut, but he’s alive.
His board, however, is snapped in two.
When Boone gets up to the little parking lot above Swami’s, Alan Burke is waiting for him, leaning against his classic 1951 Ford woodie.
Burke is San Diego’s best defense attorney.
He looks at Boone’s snapped board.
Boone nods. It was a fine board that had a lot of rides under it, a lot of history. He’ll miss it.
“You going out?” Boone asks as he walks to his van.
“Too big for me,” Burke says, following him. “I know my limitations.”
Boone respects that, figures that Burke came out just to look.
“Actually, I figured I’d find you here,” Burke says. A north winter swell, Swami’s is where you’ll find the real gunners. “I didn’t figure you’d almost drown, though.”
“What’s up?” Boone asks, unzipping the back of his O’Neill winter suit and toweling off. There are streaks of blood on the towel. Then he pulls on a heavy sweatshirt with a hood.
“I want to hire you,” Burke says, “as my investigator on a case.”
“What’s the case?” Boone asks.
“Forget it,” Boone says.
Phillips killed a cop.
Justin Healey was just three years on the job.
An Iraq vet with a wife and a little kid.
He was sitting in his squad car parked outside a 24-hour convenience store up in North County when a guy came up from behind and shot him in the face. The responding officers found Joe “Trashbag” Phillips, a homeless drunk, walking with the gun, a shitty old AMT Hardballer, half a mile away.
His prints were on it.
The paraffin test showed residue on his hands.
And he confessed.
Boone’s only surprised that Trashbag made it to the house at all and wasn’t shot resisting arrest with a firearm in his hand.
Well, he’s also surprised that Burke has the case. Alan Burke is expensive. Trashbag should have gotten a PD, and then side out.
“I’m with the Equality Project,” Burke, a liberal Democrat in a town with a conservative Republican bar, explains now. “My number came up.”
“Mine didn’t,” Boone says, getting into his van.
His shoulder hurts and he wants a hot shower.
Boone left the San Diego police force under a cloud, not exactly popular with all his brother officers.
But they were his brother officers.
And Boone, although he didn’t know Healey, isn’t going to help defend a cop killer. “You don’t know the facts,” Burke says.
“I know enough.”
“The motto of the ignorant,” says Burke.
Boone lets out a huff of air. “Give me 30 minutes. I need a shower. You can buy me breakfast at the Sundowner.”
A hot shower after a cold ocean is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Boone has a shower in his small office on the second floor above Pacific Surf. When he comes out, Cheerful is sitting at his desk, going over the numbers.
Cheerful is a saturnine old real estate billionaire whose sobriquet is an ironic comment on his caustic personality, the way you call a tall man Shorty or a skinny guy Fatso. Boone loves him, though, and not only for the fact that Cheerful has made it his hobby to try to manage the finances of Boone’s private investigation business.
Boone tries to make a living without doing anything too sleazy. This isn’t always easy.
Boone starts to get dressed.
“Where are you going?” Cheerful asks, frowning. He had hoped to torture Boone in the hot sea of red ink spilled across his monthly statement.
“To meet Alan Burke.”
“Good,” Cheerful says. “You need income.”
“That’s too bad,” Boone says, “because I’m not taking the case.”
Boone walks downstairs.
Hang Twelve, a soul surfer with six toes on each sandaled foot, is behind the counter.
“Boone,” Hang Twelve says. “That was some wave you rode.”
“It rode me,” Boone says, walking out the door.
The Sundowner is a surf joint just half a block down the street in Pacific Beach.
Iconic boards hang from its ceilings, surf posters on its walls. At night it’s a club for the partying PB crowd, but in the daytime it serves surfer food—protein and carbs.
Burke’s already in one of the booths.
He has a file out on the table.
Boone slides in across from him.
“I ordered,” Burke says, knowing that Boone has no need to. The second they see him come in, the cooks fire up his regular—eggs machaca with black beans and flour tortillas on the side and a mug of black coffee.
Boone is the unofficial security at the Sundowner.
He keeps an eye on the place.
In exchange, the place looks out for him.
“What facts don’t I know?” Boone asks. He doesn’t like disappointing Alan, so he wants to get it over with.
“There were no witnesses,” Burke says.
“He had the weapon.”
“He says he picked it up in a ditch.”
Boone has to admit to himself that part makes sense. Joe Phillips is called Trashbag for a reason—he walks up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in North County with a black plastic trash bag into which he throws stuff he finds along the road. Unkind wags have joked that there should be a sign along the road—THESE MILES SPONSORED BY TRASHBAG PHILLIPS.
There are a lot of stories about him—he was a millionaire who lost everything, he was an average guy who lost his mind when his wife died, he was a highly decorated war hero whose body came home but whose mind didn’t.
Boone doesn’t believe any of them.
And he believes that Joe Phillips killed a cop.
“Positive residue test,” Boone says.
“Middle Ages technology,” Burke says. “They might as well have dunked him in the river like a witch.”
“Oh, come on,” Burke says. “Trashbag has a wet brain. And you know how this works—a good detective in the room could make this guy say anything.”
He slides some paper across the table.
Boone looks at the transcript of the interview.
First thing he looks at is the interviewing detective’s name.
Harrington was instrumental in Boone’s leaving the force. Boone is a gentle man with few, if any, hatreds.
But he hates Harrington, and the feeling is returned in spades.
Burke tries to suppress a smile. He knows he’s played a potentially winning card and presses. “You know what you won’t see anywhere in that interview, Boone? Motive. Why did Trashbag just walk up and shoot a cop? Why?”
“He’s psychotic?” Boone says. “Voices in his head? Jim Beam told him to? I dunno, and it doesn’t matter.”
If you have means and opportunity, you don’t need motive.
“All I’m asking you to do is meet him, okay?” Burke says. “Just meet him.” Sunny Day strides over with Boone’s food.
That’s what Sunny does, she strides. Probably the best surfer in PB, maybe in San Diego, her long legs won’t do anything but stride. She sets the plate in front of Boone and says, “You got your ass kicked out at Swami’s. Sorry about your board.”
“I’m going out again after my shift.”
Although Sunny’s a better surfer than Boone is, he worries about her. “Be careful.” “Always,” Sunny smiles and then walks away.
She and Boone have an on-and-off thing going. Right now it’s off, but he’s still her best friend in the world and she’s his.
Burke watches Sunny stride away and says to Boone, “You’re an idiot.”
He digs into the food.
Boone tries to keep life simple. Good surfing, good food, good friends—that’s life. He tries to make a living without doing anything too sleazy, and he tries to do the right thing.
This isn’t always easy given his line of work.
“Okay,” he says after taking a bite of a warm flour tortilla. “I’ll meet him. But that’s all.”
The black beans are excellent.
Maybe Trashbag didn’t do it. This conclusion really pisses Boone off as he drives his van away from Central Holding.
He’d sat across the table from Trashbag and listened as Burke took him through the whole thing, and Boone had never seen a more confused man in his entire life.
It was hard to imagine this scared, small white-haired man—clearly a long-gone alcoholic—picking up a gun and firing into anybody, never mind a cop. And he couldn’t answer basic questions——
What did Healey look like?
What time was it?
Why did you do it?
Trashbag just said that he was done answering questions and they could do whatever they wanted with him, he didn’t give a shit. He seemed a lot more concerned that the jail was dirty and they wouldn’t let him clean it up.
As they left the building, Boone said, “Go with the insanity defense.”
“A cop killer?” Burke asked. “What San Diego jury is going to accept that? They can’t wait to strap him to the gurney.”
Burke was right, Boone thought.
He’d seen the TV coverage.
The officers in their dress uniforms.
“Amazing Grace” on the bagpipe.
The grieving widow with the little boy.
Burke would try to get the trial moved, but it wouldn’t happen. No judge would risk it. San Diego is a military town that loves its soldiers, sailors, marines and its cops, many of whom are former military.
Trashbag is fucked.
Burke pressed him to take the case. Boone said he’d think it over.
Now, driving back to PB, he does. “No” is the smart answer, because “yes” brings a big wave down on his head. PIs have to work with cops or they can’t work, so taking on a cop killer defense is, career-wise, sticking a gun into his own mouth.
He wins the Phillips case, he loses his living.
Boone knows how it works—the whole city comes at him. His license gets looked at, safety inspectors find problems in his office, he gets stopped for running every yellow light.
And then there are the relationships.
The other detective on the case is John Kodani.
Johnny Banzai, one of Boone’s best surfing buddies and closest friends. Boone has dinner at his house, chats with his wife, plays on the floor with his kids.
And he’s a good cop.
Whose career will get jammed up if a cop killer skates.
Or if he got the wrong guy.
No, Boone thinks as he pulls into a parking slot outside Pacific Surf, this is a lose-lose proposition. Any way it turns out, you’re fucked.
He decides to call Alan and take a pass.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent people behind bars, Boone thinks as he goes up the stairs. Trashbag might be better off there. Three meals a day and a bed, anyway.
He calls Burke.
“Okay,” Boone says. “I’m in.”
Even though he knows that there are some waves you shouldn’t ride.
Boone goes back to the file.
When he goes down to his van later, a parking ticket is stuck on the windshield, his left taillight is smashed and there’s a “fix it” ticket for that too.
It’s just starting, Boone thinks.
This is only the small shit.
Akemi, the young Chaldean guy behind the counter of the convenience store, gives Boone a sardonic smile. “Did I know Trashbag? That’s not exactly the way I’d put it, my brother.”
The Chaldeans are Iraqi Christians. Many of them immigrated to San Diego during the war, and now they own a lot of the local convenience stores.
Good people, Boone thinks.
“How exactly would you put it?” Boone asks.
“He’d walk by here every night,” Akemi says. “Same time. I think he lives down in the underpass, a lot of them do.”
“Every night?” Boone asks.
“With that black garbage bag over his shoulder,” Akemi says.
“Was he a problem?”
“Not really,” Akemi says. “We threw him out a few times when he’d try to pocket the little booze bottles here at the counter. But I didn’t think he was a bad guy, just sad, until he did this terrible thing.”
He shakes his head.
“Did Officer Healey come in here every night?”
Akemi smiles. “Like clockwork.”
Boone knows what the smile means. The coffee is on the house. He doesn’t have anything against it and neither does Akemi. Convenience stores like cops coming in, and the job should have its small perks.
“What did you see that night?” Boone asks.
“Like I told the detectives,” Akemi says. “I heard shots. I called 911.”
“You stayed inside.”
“Trouble will find you,” Akemi says. “You don’t have to go out and look for it.” This, Boone thinks as he leaves the store, is true.
Boone walks the dirt path along the side of the road.
It’s well worn, trod by the homeless.
They have their routes and their routines, Boone knows. It keeps them barely attached to the world.
“Trouble will find you,” Akem says. “You don’t have to go out and look for it.”
He stops half a mile from the store at the spot where the arresting officers picked Trashbag up with the murder weapon. There’s not a lot around—some warehouses, a vacant lot.
Boone walks down to the highway underpass that Trashbag called home.
The cops periodically “clean them out,” but the homeless come back at night. Now there are cardboard boxes and a few old blankets. Some old plastic jugs for drinking water, some empty half-pint booze bottles and cigarette butts.
One of the blankets moves.
A woman—at least Boone thinks she’s a woman—pokes her head out.
“I’ll go,” she says.
“You a cop?”
“No,” Boone says. Not anymore. “What’s your name?”
“Mary, I’m Boone. You know a guy they call Trashbag?”
“That Joe, he’s gone now,” Mary says.
“Hey, Mary?” Boone asks. “Did Joe have a gun?”
“Joe, he didn’t,” Mary says. “He wanted one, though.”
Mary whispers. “Said he was gonna kill a cop.”
Boone feels his heart sink.
Trashbag did it.
“A cop named Healey?” Boone asks.
“No,” Mary says. “That Healey, he was nice, he would bring food sometimes. Joe liked him.”
Mary smiles. Her teeth, what there are of them, are black. “If Joe kills anyone, it would be Langdon. That Langdon, he’s mean. Always moving us along, shoving us around. Joe said he would take care of it. You can’t push that Joe too far. I’ll leave now.”
“No, go back to sleep,” Boone says. He takes 10 bucks from his pocket and lays it on her blanket. “Then get yourself something to eat, okay?”
But she’s already asleep.
Trashbag Phillips killed the wrong cop, Boone thinks.
Drunk, he mistook Healey for Langdon, walked up and “took care of it.” To defend the only family he knew.
Boone goes back to the office and gets on the computer.
To try and answer the question—who is Joe “Trashbag” Phillips? Is he the kind of man who’d take care of things with a gun?
Turns out he is.
Boone tracks down a bunch of legends about Trashbag—he’s not a former millionaire, not a grieving widower, but he is a war hero.
Vietnam, Tet Offensive.
Already wounded, Staff Sergeant Joseph Phillips counterattacks an NVA unit that hit his company hard. Kills seven NVA, drags two of his buddies to safety and holds the position until the choppers get there.
That’s how the Silver Star citation read.
So he is the kind of guy who would defend his people with a gun.
Case is pretty much closed, but Boone goes back to the file to make sure he has it all tied up.
Then he sees it.
Boone finds Darren Langdon at a shooting range all the way out in El Cajon.
He waits in the lobby and leafs through a gun mag as the cop finishes taking out a silhouette target with his Glock.
Three in the chest.
Three in the head.
Langdon comes out.
Tall, short black hair, handsome.
Definite alpha male.
“Officer Langdon?” Boone says, showing his ID. “My name is Daniels. I’m an investigator assisting in the defense of Joe Phillips.”
“Yeah, I know who you are.” It’s pretty clear from the look of disgust on his face that he doesn’t much like who Boone is. “Didn’t you let a baby killer go before you left the job? Now you’re trying to spring a cop killer.”
“Just a couple of questions,” Boone says.
“Get out of my way.”
“Don’t make us do this the hard way,” Boone says. “I came here as a courtesy. I can get a subpoena.”
Langdon sighs. “What do you want to know?”
“Did you ever see Phillips before you arrested him?” Boone asks.
“Read the file.”
“It says you hadn’t,” Boone says. “But he walked that way every night, on your tour.”
“If I knew every bum on my tour——”
“You used to shove him around, though, didn’t you?” Boone asks.
Boone sees Langdon’s face go all red.
So it’s true.
“I got a 10 double zero and I went after the shooter,” Langdon says. “I found him. We done?”
10-00. Radio code for “officer down.”
“Did you lie about knowing him,” Boone asks, “because you think maybe he shot Healey instead of you?”
“Justin Healey was my best friend,” Langdon says. “I’m his boy’s godfather.”
“I know. That’s maybe why——”
A knot of men have gathered behind him.
Off-duty cops, Boone knows. Something you find at firing ranges. They all give Boone the stink eye, and one of them says, “Get the fuck out of here, shithead.”
That seems to make Langdon more aggro. “Why don’t you and I go outside?”
Boone says, “I’m confused. Do you want me to go outside to leave or so you and I can dance?”
“You call the wolf,” Langdon says, “you get the pack.”
“All together or one at a time?”
“Your choice, asshole,” Langdon says.
Boone puts his hands up. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
As he goes out the door, he hears laughter and shouts of “Pussy!” and “Bitch!” and “Turncoat!”
Boone sits in his van and takes a deep breath.
If I was them, he thinks, maybe I’d act the same way.
The black-and-white pulls Boone over on Garnet Avenue. “License and registration, please.”
“Come on, man,” Boone says.
He knows Juan Garza from his days on the job.
“Step out of the car, sir,” Garza says. “I’m going to search the vehicle.”
“On what grounds?”
“I smelled marijuana,” Garza says.
“As I drove past?” Boone asks.
“Please step aside.”
Boone steps aside while Garza takes the van apart, front and back, and none too neatly. He knows Garza isn’t going to find anything but wet suits, fins, booties, some In-N-Out wrappers and a few old go-cups.
Unless, of course, he plants something.
“Find anything?” Boone asks.
“You have 13 days to get that taillight fixed.”
He knows it’s not going to stop there.
That night Boone sits in his small cottage at the end of Crystal Pier.
The other cottages are part of the hotel, but Cheerful used his considerable leverage to buy this one, and he rents it out at a nominal fee. Boone helped him out of a bad blackmail jam once and Cheerful wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The cottage sits right over the water and Boone can feel the swell roll under him. Trashbag Phillips walked the same route every night.
Johnny gives him a look that could burn through steel. “You leave the widow alone.”
He didn’t own a gun.
Langdon knew him and lied about it.
He got the call and went after the shooter.
But how did he know where to go?
Boone hears a knock at the door and goes to open it.
“Tell me I hear wrong,” Johnny Banzai says.
“No, you hear right.”
Boone walks in and Johnny follows him.
“He’s a cop killer!” Johnny, usually the most calm and rational of men, yells. “He killed a brother officer! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Yes, if he did it.”
“I watched the video,” Boone says. “Harrington worked him.”
“I was on the other side of the glass,” Johnny says. “Did I work him too?”
“I’d never think that, John,” Boone says. “But if you take another look at the video, the transcript, I don’t think you’ll be happy with it.”
“You know what they’re calling you at the house?” Johnny says. “Traitor. There’s guys that want to come over here right now and clean your clock.”
“He’s in the car,” Johnny says. “I made him stay outside.”
“Hey,” Boone says, “any time he wants to dance.”
Johnny walks to the window and looks out at the dark ocean.
“You know Darren Langdon?” Boone asks.
“He’s a good cop,” Johnny says. “Where are you going with this?”
Boone runs it down for him.
Johnny shakes his head. “I wouldn’t put it above Langdon to job a skell to clear a case. But not on his best friend. He’d want the real shooter and that’s who we got.” “Then why is he lying about knowing Phillips?”
“So he doesn’t get the kind of dumb, irrelevant questions you’re asking now,”
Johnny says. “Off the statement of some old wino with a grudge against him. I know you have a beef with the job——”
“I have no beef with the job.”
“Yeah, okay,” Johnny says. “But you’re taking it too far. You’re working for the piece of shit who killed Healey, and now you want to jam Langdon up too? What happened to you, Boone?”
It’s a reasonable question, Boone thinks.
Three years ago he and Harrington picked up a suspected child abductor and Boone wouldn’t go along with driving out in the country and tuning him up until he told what he did with the little girl.
The skell walked.
They never found the girl.
And Boone became a pariah on the force until he finally pulled the pin and walked away.
He still asks himself if he did the right thing.
“I’m telling you, something about Langdon’s wrong,” Boone says.
“You’re wrong,” Johnny says. “I’m telling you, back the fuck off.”
“Someone else who might have had a reason to kill Healey,” Boone says.
“Model husband,” Johnny says. “Model father. Model cop.”
“Maybe he told his wife something.”
Johnny gives him a look that could burn through steel. “Don’t do it. You leave the widow alone. My hand to God, you go anywhere near Sharon Healey, I’ll——” “You’ll what, Johnny?”
Johnny says, “Don’t make us go there, Boone.”
He walks out.
Boone’s out in the water a little before first light.
Maybe his favorite time of the day, the sky a dark pearl and everything quiet. The Dawn Patrol comes out.
Sunny, of course, in her blue winter suit. Then Hang Twelve, already a little baked. Then High Tide, the 380-pound Samoan, the former chief of the Samoan Lords before he left the gangbanging life for a job and a family. He paddles out to Boone on a board the size of a small yacht. “Mornin’, bruddah. What I hear about you? You makin’ trouble again?”
“I guess so, Tide.”
“You keep your chin up,” Tide says, “and your head down, yeah?”
“My old boys hear things,” Tide says. “Hear you might be next up for a bullet.” Boone knows that Tide doesn’t gangbang anymore, but he keeps in touch with his old friends.
It’s worth listening to.
Boone drops to the ground as the bullets whiz over his head.
Last out is Dave the Love God, his sobriquet a play on lifeguard, because Dave is the most famous lifeguard in a town where kids idolize them like kids in other cities worship basketball players and because he has an equally impressive reputation among the tourist chicks as the best vacation sex this side of anywhere.
Other than Sunny, Dave is Boone’s best friend. They’ve surfed together since they were grems.
“Where’s Johnny?” Boone asks.
“Not coming out today,” Dave says. “Or any day you’re here.”
“He told you what’s up?”
“At length,” Dave says.
“What do you think?”
“I think you can’t save everybody,” Dave says.
Which is some statement coming from a man who has saved almost everybody and still privately grieves for the ones he couldn’t.
“But don’t you have to try?”
“The ocean does what it does, regardless,” Dave says. He looks behind him and then paddles for the wave.
Sunny comes up beside Boone. “I hear you have troubles.”
“Any wisdom for me?”
“You have to decide,” she says, “which waves are worth riding. Because one day, one of them is going be your last. This wave? You won’t go down alone. You’ll take your friends with you. And for what, Boone? Your need to be right, to be just, to make up for some sin you think you committed?”
She paddles away.
Riding in, Boone remembers that the Buddha said, “Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is the whole of a holy life.”
The Dawn Patrol—these are his friends, his companions. Their camaraderie means everything to him.
And now that’s torn, and he feels the tear like a wound.
Cheerful is in the office.
The Cheerful don’t surf.
He owns a good piece of the oceanfront real estate in Pacific Beach but never goes near the water.
Now he says, “I’ve been getting calls about you.”
“The mayor,” Cheerful says. “The head of the chamber. A couple of men I do business, play golf with. They think I should cancel your lease. If I want to keep doing business here.”
“What did you tell them?”
“To go fuck themselves,” Cheerful says.
It makes him cheerful.
Boone picks Langdon up outside the Northern Division after his tour and follows him up through La Jolla to Interstate 5, where he gets off at the 56 and then turns in to a Hampton Inn.
Langdon gets out of the car and goes in.
Only five minutes later a red Toyota Camry pulls into the lot, and Boone sees who gets out.
He waits an hour and a half and then follows the Camry up the 5, then into Carlsbad, where it turns in to the driveway of a single-family home in a new development on a hill where they used to grow flowers.
When Sharon Healey gets out of her car, Boone gets out of the van with his hands up by his shoulders and says, “Mrs. Healey. Could I speak with you for a moment?” Sharon’s a small woman, petite, pretty.
Light brown hair, cut short.
She strikes Boone as a little timid—the unkind word would be mousy—but then again he figures she’s probably still in shock.
“You scared me,” Sharon says. “It’s four in the morning. Who are you?”
“My name is Daniels, and I——”
“They told me not to talk with you.”
I’ll bet they did, Boone thinks.
“I know you’re grieving,” Boone says. “And I’m sorry to bother you. But you want them to find the man who killed your husband.”
“See, I don’t think they did,” Boone says. “Is your little boy at home?”
“He’s spending the night with my parents.” She starts to walk away from him to the house.
“How long have you been sleeping with Darren Langdon?” Boone asks.
She turns around, startled. “I—how dare you——”
“Hampton Inn,” Boone says, “Carmel Valley. What’s it been? Six months? A year?”
“Those are lies.”
“No, they’re not, Mrs. Healey,” Boone says. “Now we can do this any one of several ways. You can come with me now and I’ll bring you to a detective who’ll take your statement, or I can tell that same detective what I know and he’ll show up at your door. Which do you want to do?”
“Am I under arrest?”
“I don’t have that authority,” Boone says. “Adultery isn’t illegal anymore, and that’s all we know that you’ve done. But you want to get out in front of this. If Darren Langdon killed your husband, you want to be a witness, not an accomplice.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“Here’s what I know happened,” Boone says. “You and Langdon were in love and he decided to get rid of the obstacle, so he walked up and shot his best friend in the face. Then he dropped the weapon where he knew Trashbag Phillips would find it and arrested him. Only reason he didn’t gun Phillips down was that there were other cops there. What I don’t know is whether you knew about it, before or after.” “I’m not talking to you.”
“You have a little boy with no father,” Boone says. “You want him to have no mother too? Because unless you clear yourself, you’re going away.”
Sharon looks up. “I’ll come with you.”
He walks her out to the van and she climbs in.
Boone’s call wakes Johnny Banzai up.
“Meet me at my place,” Boone says. “Sharon Healey wants to make a statement.”
“I told you——”
Boone clicks off.
The flashers hit just as Boone’s pulling onto the pier.
“Driver, pull over.”
“Get on the floor,” Boone tells Sharon.
He pulls over.
The wave hits him like a Tyson left hook thrown from the canvas.
The black-and-white pulls up about five yards behind him. In the rearview mirror, Boone sees Langdon walk toward the driver’s side, his weapon pointed out in front of him.
“Driver, get out of the car! Put your hands behind your head and walk backward to me!”
Then Langdon yells, “Gun! Gun!”
Boone drops to the ground as the bullets whiz over his head.
Sharon opens her door and runs in a panic.
“Sharon, no!” Boone yells.
But it makes Langdon stop shooting and Boone gets up, grabs Sharon and runs for the pier.
Running from a cop is almost always the wrong decision.
Unless you know the cop is going to kill you and lay a throw-down weapon on your corpse.
Then run like hell.
Boone makes it onto the pier despite Sharon pulling against him and screaming, “Darren, it’s me! It’s Sharon!”
She doesn’t realize that now he has to kill her too.
Langdon’s coming up behind them.
Even if Boone had time to get into his cottage it only means he dies there instead of the pier, so he keeps them moving.
To the end.
Then there’s only one way out.
He grabs Sharon by the waist and hefts her over the rail.
Throws her into the ocean.
Then he follows.
The frigid water swallows them.
He comes back up and makes out Sharon thrashing in the dark gray pre-dawn sky and grabs her.
“It’s okay,” Boone says. “I have you.”
Except he knows it’s not okay. He can see Langdon at the end of the pier, looking for them, his gun sweeping right and left. And even if the rogue cop doesn’t kill them, the water might—they might freeze before he can swim them to the beach. Muzzle flashes, the crack of pistol fire.
Boone pulls Sharon under the water.
She fights him, panicking.
He brings them back up to see.…
In the words of Dave the Love God, “the ocean does what it does regardless.” It just doesn’t care, and now it summons up a wall of water and throws it at Boone.
A rogue wave.
Big, burgeoning, unstoppable.
You can’t outrun a wave.
You can’t outswim it either.
If he were alone, Boone would turn and face it, dive into it and under as deep as he could, but he can’t leave Sharon to drown.
So he wraps his arms around her tight as he can and gets ready for the blow.
The wave hits him like a Tyson left hook thrown from the canvas, blows him backward, takes him to the bottom and rolls him.
Over and over again, as he holds on to Sharon and tries to keep her body compact, and the wave holds them down, punishes them for their temerity in being there in the first place, and the cold is agonizing and eats up oxygen until finally it stops and Boone pushes up and——
The second wave is bigger than the first, and now they’re in the impact zone and it crashes down on their heads and explodes like a bomb and Boone can’t hold on as Sharon is blown from his arms and all he can do himself is try to survive as the wave holds him down and his lungs scream for air and then the wave slams the back of his head on the bottom and he starts to black out and that will be death—drowning in the dark, cold water before the sun can warm him one last time.
Then a hand grabs him and pulls him up.
Dave’s in the whitewater, pulls him and then pushes him onto High Tide’s big board.
Boone gasps, “There’s a woman——”
“Sunny has her.”
Stretched across the board, Boone looks over and sees Sunny hoist Sharon onto Hang Twelve’s board.
On the pier, Johnny Banzai has his gun trained on Langdon.
“Let’s get you in,” Dave says, “before the hypothermia hits.”
They paddle toward shore.
The Dawn Patrol is out.
San Diego winter sunsets are magnificent.
Boone thinks it has to do with the clarity of the air.
He flips a piece of fish on the grill on the pier outside his cottage and asks Johnny, “Did Langdon give it up?”
“He gave her up,” Johnny says. “She pulled the trigger, but they planned it together. She says Healey beat her. I don’t know.”
“I owe you an apology,” Johnny says. “You were right.”
“I thought it was Langdon. So I was wrong too.”
Wrong about a lot of things, Boone thinks.
I was wrong about Joe Phillips.
Johnny lifts a beer to him. “Here’s to being wrong.”
It’s chilly out and they’re wearing sweatshirts. So are Sunny and Dave. High Tide’s in a T-shirt, but Boone figures he provides his own insulation, and Hang Twelve never seems to feel the cold.
Boone slides the fish into a tortilla and hands it to Johnny.
It’s a ritual, Boone making fish tacos for the Dawn Patrol. They do it once a week, twice in the summer. Sundays, though, it’s just him and Sunny, wherever their relationship is at.
But now it feels good to have them all with him.
The swell is over, the sea is calm.
There are some waves you shouldn’t ride, Boone thinks, looking out at the sunset. But most of them you should.
Especially the rogues.