All the Little Pieces, p.37Jilliane Hoffman
He shook his head and gave her a smile and a thumbs-up. She knew he was really tired and that his chest was probably hurting, but he would never admit it. She was trying to get past everything they’d been through together, but looking at him was hard sometimes. The guilt made her cry a lot. But every day got a little better and at the end of each one he was still there. Now there was the adventure of New York to look forward to, and a future full of new memories to make. That’s what got her through the tough parts. And there were a lot of those, no lie.
Today there were about thirty-five people gathered in the bible study room. No one knew her. No one recognized her, or if they did, they didn’t care. They were there, she knew, because they had far bigger problems. Or were hard at work trying to fix those problems. She didn’t look at anyone for too long, and they didn’t look at her. They didn’t call it Alcoholics Anonymous without reason.
The chairperson entered the room and walked past the rows of fold-up chairs to the front of the room where there was a small table set up. On it were pitchers of water and plastic cups. And coffee. Always plenty of freshly brewed coffee.
Vernon was his name. He was a kind-looking African American man in his fifties, with a soft face and a hesitant smile. He led the group with the Serenity Prayer: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’
She reached for Jarrod’s hand. He squeezed it hard.
Then Vernon asked the question that had her holding her breath. ‘Is there anyone here who would like to tell their story?’
It was time and she knew it. Jarrod didn’t nudge her or say anything. He sat there, staring impassively straight ahead.
She stood. Her knees were knocking together, but she was standing.
‘Come forward,’ said Vernon, gesturing toward the podium. It reminded her of the courtroom, something she wished she could forget.
She walked cautiously to the podium and looked out at the crowd. The homeless man with the curly hair in the back was gone. She felt strangely relieved.
‘My name is Faith,’ she began in a small, shaky voice that she hoped one day would sound strong again. She looked over at Jarrod. ‘And I am an alcoholic …’
Six months later
‘Counselor? You got a minute?’ asked City of Miami Homicide Detective Manny Alvarez.
Miami-Dade County Assistant State Attorney C.J. Townsend looked up from her desk at the burly, bald, olive-skinned detective standing in her doorway who bore an uncanny resemblance to a Cuban Mr Clean. He actually took up most of her doorway. ‘For you, Manny, I have ten,’ she answered with a slow smile.
‘You say the nicest things,’ he answered, pulling up a chair.
‘What are you doing around here at, what?’ She looked at her watch. ‘Five o’clock on a Friday? Jeesh. How’d it get so late? This place must be deserted.’ The support staff at the State Attorney’s Office religiously cleared the halls by four thirty. At five fifteen on a Friday it was possible that she and Manny were the only souls left in the whole building.
‘I was across the street on a motion to suppress with Judge Shapiro that ended about three. So I headed to the cafeteria and was enjoying a café con leche when I got a call from the FDLE lab up in Tallahassee. Seems a lot of folks are working late today. Or maybe they are for this,’ Manny added, thoughtfully. ‘I don’t know if you’re familiar with the case of the Tootsie’s Cabaret dancer who went missing five weeks back. She was the daughter of a Miami-Dade commissioner who didn’t know his little girl was moonlighting as a stripper?’
‘Yeah, I know the case. They found her body last month, right?’
‘Parts of it. Out in the Everglades, off the Miccosukee Indian reservation. It’s Miccosukee land, but the Indians didn’t want it, and since the City of Miami was already working the missing persons case, we kept the homicide and decided to work it with FDLE and piggy-back on their jurisdiction. The kid – Meghan was her name – wasn’t killed where she was dumped, that was for certain, so the Feds didn’t want it, either, although I’m willing to wager they’ll probably be pretty interested now. We knew from the state of the body and lack of decomposition that the girl was definitely held for a period of time before she was killed, which was troubling. Her boyfriend was initially a suspect, but not any more. So the ME did a scrape of the fingernails and we got DNA, made a profile. All’s good, right? I put it in the system and FDLE ran it through their DNA database. I also gave it to the Feds to run through CODIS.’
‘And FDLE just called you? So they have a hit?’ C.J. asked.
‘That’s good. Who is it? You look a little stunned, so I’m thinking you’re about to drop a big name on me, Manny. It’s not the commissioner himself, is it?’
‘No, no. What’s interesting is that I don’t have a name. What I have is a match to another crime scene. In fact, this guy I’m looking for has already been indicted. Or his DNA has.’
She leaned forward. ‘What?’
‘And I figured that this case will probably land on your desk, Counselor, for a number of reasons, the first being it’s the murder of a county commissioner’s daughter – who’s about to announce his candidacy for the US Senate. That makes it high profile. And second, you’re the SAO resident expert on serial killers: you’ve tried more of them than anyone else around here.’
C.J. felt her chest tighten. ‘How do you know it’s a serial, Manny?’
‘The DNA is a match to the indicted AWOL partner of acquitted-but-dead Palm Beach murder defendant Derrick Alan Poole. The name of the partner is believed to be Eduardo—’
‘Carbone,’ she finished. ‘I thought he went to Mexico.’
‘Everyone thought he went to Mexico, including the lead detective, Bryan Nill, who was just as shocked and troubled twenty minutes ago to hear me tell him what you’re hearing now.’
‘So Carbone is still in Florida then?’
Manny leaned all the way back in the chair and rubbed the back of his head. ‘Apparently. In fact, I’m sure your boss is gonna be telling you that this guy is all yours, Counselor. If we can catch him.’
‘Of that I have every confidence, Manny.’
‘And I have every confidence that you’d do a better job than that wannabe talk show host who took a stab at it last time and missed. I hear she sucks as an analyst.’
‘Thanks, Manny. Down, boy. It was a hard case. Her main witness had some problems.’
He shrugged. ‘Just speaking the truth. We got a twenty-three-year-old escort from Brickell that hasn’t been seen since hooking up with a Back Page date a week ago. Name is Valerie Brinley and her mom is a wreck, calling the press and shit. I’m thinking now that I got this Cane Killer guy’s DNA down here in Miami all up under the fingernails of a chopped-up stripper, that this escort’s disappearance could be related.’ He blew out a long breath. ‘I don’t need to tell you how many dancers and hookers go missing every year in Miami-Dade County alone. I’m gonna have to trawl though more than a few missing persons files and see who hasn’t made it back home yet, see if anyone fits the description of what this guy Carbone seems to be looking for in a woman. Then I gotta call the County, and the Beach and see what they got in their departments. Oh boy.’
C.J. nodded. ‘So he’s a serial and he’s still hunting. And he’s in the Everglades and he’s dumping by Miccosukee …’
Manny pulled on his thick black mustache, which was as oversized as his forearm, and leaned forward again in the chair, rocking it. ‘We know from the Palm Beach case that these guys held those women in cages in that shack for a few days or more before killing them. That shack was perfect: abandoned and remote. Carbone is a survivalist according to Nill. That means he can live in extreme conditions like the Everglades for long periods of time. There are a couple of structures out west that might suit his needs. The county took down a meth lab of
‘I remember that shack and that girl.’ She shivered at the memory. ‘That’s a lot like the Palm Beach Little Shack of Horrors. It’s definitely a place that this Carbone guy would be attracted to, if he found it. I would have thought it had been torn down, though.’
Manny shook his head. ‘Nope. At least it wasn’t last year when I was out on the reservation doing interviews on this other case I had. It’s worth a trip out west to see what else has sprung up in that area. Maybe I’ll make your husband take a ride with me.’ C.J.’s husband, Dominick Falconetti, was a special agent with FDLE. He had headed up the Cupid task force. ‘He knows the area pretty well. And I’ll see if I can get a few boys with Fish and Wildlife to join us. I’m sure they know good hiding spots aplenty. I don’t want to spook this guy, though. If Carbone does keep his victims alive for a while before he kills them, and he does have this Brinley girl – or any other girl or girls – there’s a chance we could save them. I want to be as quiet as possible, but cover as much ground as possible. If he’s still around and we lose him, he probably will flee to Mexico this time and then we’ll be fucked.’
C.J. had worked enough cases in her lengthy career and brought down enough bad guys to trust the intuitive feeling that was raising the hair on the back of her neck. It was a law enforcement sixth sense that abruptly told you, after sorting through hundreds of leads that had led nowhere, that this one could be The One. It was the gut feeling, supported by intelligence, that had caused Admiral McRaven to send a team of SEALs and two Black Hawk helicopters to a remote house in Abbottabad. The abandoned meth trailer or fishing shack might not turn out to be The Place, but Manny and Dominick would find it. It was a matter of time. And her gut was telling her it could be tonight. She reached for the phone. ‘You call Dominick,’ she said excitedly. ‘I’m sure he’ll be up for it.’
Manny stood. His shiny bald head practically kissed the plastic encased fluorescent tubes that lit her dull gray office. ‘Who you calling then, Counselor?’
‘That detective from Palm Beach,’ she replied as she started to dial. ‘I have a feeling we’ll be needing him to dust off his case files and take a ride down to Miami.’
I’d like to thank all the people who helped me complete this project. Although All the Little Pieces is a book of fiction, it still required a fair amount of research, sometimes to verify even the tiniest of details. It seems that I have been thanking the same individuals since the moment I picked up the pen in 2001, and it is no wonder that they are some of my closest friends. FDLE Special Agent Larry Masterson, who always, always answers the phone, no matter what time it rings, and FDLE Special Agent Chris Vastine, who is usually with Larry when it does. Deputy Statewide Prosecutor Julie Hogan, a genius in the courtroom and my supplier of expert contacts. Marie Perikles, Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of the Inspector General, and her husband John Perikles, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney and Director of the South Florida Money Laundering Task Force, who, acting in concert, go above and beyond to answer my questions, including furnishing me with not just the case law but a legal brief, as well. Dr Reinhard Motte, M.D., Associate Medical Examiner, Palm Beach County, who enjoys helping me think up twisted ways to realistically kill people. Denise Seminara Pellman, avid thriller reader, kind critic and sister-in-law extraordinaire who is always excited to read one of my books and offer feedback, which any author will tell you, can sometimes be a dangerous proposition. And for my delicately honest daughter Katarina and my gingerly diplomatic husband, Rich, who were both patient enough to not just read, but then re-read and sometimes re-read again a variation not just on the same chapter, but sometimes on the same sentence. As always, I have to thank my agents, Luke Janklow, and Claire Dippel, his assistant, and Rebecca Folland who are all so supportive and encouraging, and last, but not least, my very talented editor, Julia Wisdom, whose vision and guidance helped make All the Little Pieces a chilling roller coaster ride of a book.
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About the Author
Jilliane Hoffman began her professional career as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting felonies in Florida, with special assignments to the Domestic Violence Unit and the Legal Extradition Unit. She has advised more than one hundred special agents on criminal and civil matters in complex investigations involving narcotics, homicide and organized crime.
Her previous novels include the bestselling Retribution, Pretty Little Things and The Cutting Room. Originally from Long Island, New York, she presently resides in South Florida with her husband and two children.
Also by Jilliane Hoffman
Plea of Insanity
Pretty Little Things
The Cutting Room
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Jilliane Hoffman, All the Little Pieces
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