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John Lescroart

Damage

The fourth book in the Abe Glitsky series, 2011

To my consiglieri Al Giannini, and to my bride,

Lisa Marie Sawyer, always and forever

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world

is beyond all decent contemplation.

– RICH ARD DAWKINS

Life is a cheap thing beside a man’s work.

– ERNEST HEMINGWAY

PROLOGUE

Felicia Nuñez saw him standing up against a building across the street from the stop where she normally got off her streetcar. With her heart suddenly pounding in her ears, she turned away from the streetcar door as it opened and sat down on one of the side-facing benches just at the front across from the driver.

As the car started up again, passing him, she caught another glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye.

Or maybe it was him. It looked very much like him. His hair maybe a little different, longer, from the last time she’d seen him in the courtroom, but the same attitude in the way he stood. He had one boot propped up against the building, his strong white arms crossed over his chest.

She knew why he was there. He was waiting. Waiting for her.

Back then she used to see him everywhere, even when her mind had known that he could not find her. She’d been in witness protection. No one even knew where she’d lived. So there was no way in reality that it could happen. And yet for a year or two, she thought she saw him every day.

But today?

This time it was exactly him. Most of the other times, whoever she saw reminded her of him-the hair, the arms, the set of the body. But today was all him, not a collection of similar parts that, in her terror, she could imagine into the monster that he was.

At the next stop she descended out into the neighborhood and heard the streetcar’s door close behind her and then the brakes release and then the scraping sound as it moved ahead and left her standing alone at the curb.

She did not like to spend extra money and knew she could make a cup of coffee for free at home, but he might still be there lurking and if he saw her, he might, or he would…

She could not imagine.

No. She could imagine.

She went into the Starbucks and ordered a coffee-half an hour’s work at the cleaners where she was lucky to have a job, but she needed to sit quietly and to think, and also to give him time to leave if he was really waiting there to see her.

How could he have found her?

She took a seat at the front window where she could see him if he suddenly appeared among the pedestrians passing by.

The first sip scalded her tongue and the pain seemed to break something within her. She put her paper cup down and blinked back the wave of emotion that threatened now to break over her.

Bastardo! she thought. The life-destroying bastard.

In her mind, she was eighteen again.

The sun shines in her eyes as she leaves the school building where the Curtlees were letting her take the English classes two times a week, paying for her tuition as part of their deal. She comes all this way to work for them, they provide documentation and help her learn the language. She is going to become a citizen one day in the U.S., where her children can grow up educated and free.

It is almost too much for her to believe, after her poverty in Guatemala and then her mother’s death, leaving Felicia an orphan at seventeen. But now it is actually happening. She has been here for five months now and in spite of her initial fears of slavery and bad treatment, nothing bad has happened.

The son with greedy hands is someone to avoid, but the Curtlees are clearly just what they seem-good people, wealthy beyond measure, who bring young Latinas here to work for them out of the goodness of their souls.

And God for some reason had led their man in Guatemala to Felicia.

Now she walks with her eyes down against the sunlight. It is a warm autumn evening and she wears a white cotton dress and red rope shoes that are so comfortable to walk in, especially on the hills here in San Francisco. She says good-bye to the last of her classmates, and turns uphill again and enters the forested area they call Presidio that she has to cross to get to the house.

She is halfway through when he steps out from behind a bush in front of her. Here in the trees it is darker than the street, but light enough still to see that he is confident and smiling as he steps up to her.

“Hola,” she says, with a tiny false smile, hoping he will leave her alone, and she goes to move around him.

But he steps to the side with her.

“You are so beautiful,” he says. Still smiling, he is breathing very hard. He makes some motion with his head that makes her look down and she sees that he has let himself out of his pants.

“No, por favor,” she says. She repeats it. “Por favor.”

And always smiling, though his eyes are deadly cold, he moves quickly now, both hands at her waist, pulling her toward him, holding her against him.

“Don’t fight,” he rasps out. “Don’t fight me. I’ll kill you.”

She struggles and he slaps her face hard, never letting go of her dress with his other hand. He now grabs her by the throat with the one free hand he’d slapped her with. Up against her, he pushes her back and back until she falls and then he is on top of her, holding her throat, opening her legs under him, forcing himself against and against and against and finally inside her and she screams out and he covers her mouth with one hand and tells her again that he will kill her and she believes him with all her heart. And she takes it in silence.

And then it is over and he stands up and smiles down at her, tucking himself in, and tells her that he likes her shoes and he’s glad that she kept them on for him-that was sexy, he says, the fact that she couldn’t even wait to take them off she wanted it so bad-and then he tells her that he will see her around and maybe they will do this again.

Her coffee had gone cold. She’d been sitting here now for twenty-five minutes. Outside, the fog advanced in bleary wisps.

If he was waiting for her, he would be very cold by now. She would wrap her coat up tightly and walk by at the end of the block to see if he was still there, and if he was, she would keep going and decide where she would hide.

But when she got there, he was gone.

She crossed the street and continued past until the next corner. She came up around the block and at it from the opposite direction.

He was gone.

Still, she kept herself bundled into her coat, her head down and the collar up as she passed first one building and then the next, darting quick looks into the doorways where he might be hiding. At her apartment’s front door recess, she stopped to make sure that the door was locked. It was.

Turning around, she chanced another look out to the street. The asphalt shimmered in light rain. Seeing her name, NUÑEZ, clearly labeled under the mailboxes as the resident in number six, she clicked her tongue.

Not careful enough.

Inside the door, she began the trudge up the three steep flights of stairs, finally making it to the top and through her door to safety-a bedroom, a tiny living room, a kitchen.

She closed the door and threw the dead bolt. Going to the front window, she again looked down at the rain-glistening street. Turning, she wondered if she had pulled the bedroom door closed behind her this morning. She didn’t specifically remember doing that.

But then finally she allowed herself a small smile. It might not even have been him to begin with. She’d let herself get all worked up again over something that had happened so very long ago. The paranoia, the memories, the relived fear had happened before and would happen again.

She couldn’t let it dominate her life.

She had to get over it. Maybe there was still time to change and not live in the shadow of that one moment of horror and despair. People had survived worse and gone on to do great things.

She let out a long breath and crossed the three steps over to the bedroom door. Gently, gently, she kicked it open.

See? she told herself. No one is here. Her apartment door was locked when she came in just now. The front door was locked downstairs.

What could he possibly want with her out of all the women in the world anyway?

She was no longer the beauty she’d been at eighteen. She didn’t want to be pretty and mostly avoided the temptation of trying to be.

Pretty had ruined her life.

She walked through the bedroom door.

1

On the morning of what was going to be his first day at his new job, a good-looking, well-built man with his hair trimmed to just over his ears stood in front of his bedroom closet in a pair of Jockey shorts. He pulled a T-shirt from the top of a large pile of them on their special shelf. Putting it on, he checked

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