“Yippee ki-yay, Tullinger.”
J eff Sandecker lives in a gated community surrounding a country club and golf course, but as soon as I give the name Tully listed me under to the guard in the cozy little bungalow outside the main entrance, I’m waved right through. Personally, I didn’t think she would have that kind of pull, especially this late at night, but apparently I don’t know jack shit about anything, Jon Snow.
The house is somewhere around the tenth hole of the golf course. I know this because the street is called 10 th Hole Court. Trust me, even a blind monkey with diphtheria and a peanut allergy would be able to figure that one out in a snowstorm.
Shit. Now I sound like Tully. Don’t mind me. It’s been a long night. Forget I said anything.
Sandecker’s home is a three-story stone monstrosity, a modern ode to first-world overkill. I’ve seen hotels in Las Vegas smaller than this. The driveway is a half-moon shape, and I pull through it and park on the exit side. This part of the house has a huge bay window on the ground floor, wide panes of glass giving what should be a roughly one hundred forty-degree field of view from whatever room is on the other side.
The house is dark, but it’s coming up on midnight so that’s not surprising. But the outside is dark as well; not even a porch light burns bright. It took forever for Tully to pick me up and take me home so I could drive over here, mainly because I argued with her all over again about the dangers of her coming along, so maybe Sandecker went to bed before he remembered to turn everything on.
I get out of the car and walk to the front door. It’s open a crack. A dark house, with the front door improperly closed? Horror movies have started with less. The shittier ones never go beyond that, of course, but this is real life here.
Though I certainly wouldn’t mind a nubile coed running around half naked right about now, just as stress relief.
Wow. Yeah, that’s inappropriate. Forget I said anything. Sorry about that. The mind wanders.
Nothing greets me when I enter the massive foyer: no snoring, no barking dogs, no televisions telling me scores and highlights or trying to sell me a pill for whatever ails me. There’s only silence.
Shit. I should call the police. I won’t, naturally. But I should.
The foyer has a round table large enough to build a fucking Caribbean resort on, topped with a collection of gaudy vases for some stupid reason. Is Sandecker married? What kind of single guy in his thirties has something like this in his home? It makes no sense to me. I grab a vase with a lid and put the front door back the way I found it, propping vase and lid precariously against it. Then I search the house.
Wait—do vases have lids, or does that make it an urn? And who decides stupid shit like this, anyway? Don’t they have more important things to do with their time? I’d rather see a solution to the hot-dogs-in-packages-of-ten-but-hot-dog-buns-in-packages-of-eight debacle sometime before I croak than a clear delineation between a vase and a fucking urn.
I find Sandecker in his office on the ground floor, seated in a modern black office chair facing away from a massive executive-style desk. I can’t tell the kind of wood. I mean, I’m not Norm Abram or a fucking beaver or whatever. But the desk is reddish and overly ornate. Lots of intricate trim work. It looks heavier than shit.
Harsh light from a streetlamp on 10 th Hole Court floods in through the bay window I saw from outside, filling the room with a ghostly overexposure, like a demonic flashbulb. As expected, I’ve got a commanding view of the street, save for the far end of the half-moon driveway. At this end I can see the back of my car jutting out from behind a cluster of bushes.
Sandecker’s still alive, for the moment. Good thing, too. He’s been beaten to within an inch of his life. The gunshot to his abdomen carried him the next five-eighths. It’s pretty gruesome,