Home > I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(3)

I Am Death (Robert Hunter #7)(3)
Author: Chris Carter


By the age of nineteen Hunter had already graduated in Psychology – summa cum laude – and at twenty-three he received his Ph.D. in Criminal Behavior Analysis and Biopsychology. That was when Kennedy tried to recruit him into the FBI for the first time.

Hunter’s Ph.D. thesis paper, titled ‘An Advanced Psychological Study in Criminal Conduct’, ended up on Kennedy’s desk. The paper had impressed Kennedy and the then FBI Director so much that it had become mandatory reading at the NCAVC. Since then and over the years, Kennedy had tried several times to recruit Hunter into his team. In Kennedy’s mind, it made no sense that Hunter would rather be a detective with a local police force than join the most advanced serial-killer tracking task force in the USA, arguably in the world. But Hunter had never shown even an ounce of interest in becoming a federal agent, and had declined every offer made to him by Kennedy and his superiors.

Hunter sat at his desk but didn’t turn on his computer. He found it funny how everything about his office looked exactly the same, and totally different at the same time. Exactly the same because nothing had been moved or touched. Totally different because something was missing. Actually, not something, someone – his partner of six years, Detective Carlos Garcia.

Their last investigation together, before the enforced two-week break, had put Hunter and Garcia in pursuit of an extremely sadistic serial killer, who chose to broadcast his murders live over the Internet. The investigation had taken them both to the brink of sanity, almost claiming Hunter’s life, and placing Garcia and his family in a situation he swore he would never allow to happen again.

Just before their break, Garcia had revealed to Hunter that upon his return he wasn’t sure if he would come back to work at the Robbery Homicide Division and the Homicide Special Section. His priorities had changed. His family had to come first, no matter what.

Hunter didn’t have a family. He wasn’t married. He had no kids. But he fully understood his partner’s concern, and he was sure that whatever decision Garcia came to, it would be the right one for him.

The Homicide Special Section of the LAPD was an elite unit created to deal solely with serial, high-profile murders and homicide cases requiring extensive investigative time and expertise. Due to Hunter’s background in criminal behavior psychology, he headed up an even more specialized group within the Special Section. All homicides where overwhelming brutality and/or sadism had been used by the perpetrator were tagged by the department as ‘UV Crimes (Ultra-Violent). Hunter and Garcia were the LAPD’s UV Unit, and Garcia was the best partner and friend Hunter had ever had.

Hunter finally leaned forward and reached for the button to power up his computer, but before he’d managed to press it the door to his office was pushed open again and Garcia stepped inside.

‘Oh!’ Garcia said, looking a little surprised as he checked the wall clock. ‘You’re earlier than usual, Robert.’

Hunter’s eyes flicked to the clock – 2:51 p.m. – then back to his partner. Garcia’s longish brown hair was tied back in a slick ponytail, still wet from a morning shower, but his eyes looked tired and full of worry.

‘Yeah, a little bit,’ Hunter replied.

‘You don’t look so tanned for someone who’s just been to Hawaii.’ Garcia paused and frowned at Hunter. ‘You did take your vacation, right?’ Hunter was the biggest workaholic Garcia had ever met.

‘Sort of,’ Hunter said, with a half-nod.

‘And what does that mean?’

‘I took my break,’ Hunter explained. ‘I just didn’t go to Hawaii in the end.’

‘So where did you go?’

‘Nowhere special, just visiting a friend back east.’

‘OK.’

Garcia could tell that it hadn’t been something as simple as that but he also knew Hunter well enough to know that if he didn’t want to talk about a subject, he wouldn’t, no matter how much anyone pushed him.

Garcia approached his desk but didn’t sit down. He didn’t turn on his computer either. Instead, he opened the desk’s top drawer and began emptying it of its contents, placing everything on the desktop.

Hunter observed his partner without uttering a word.

Garcia finally looked at him. ‘I’m sorry, buddy,’ he said as he began emptying the second drawer, breaking the awkward silence that had taken over the room.

Hunter nodded once.

‘I thought long and hard about all this, Robert,’ Garcia opened up. ‘Actually, I spent every second of the past two weeks thinking about it, considering all the possibilities, measuring everything up, and I know that on a personal level, I’ll probably never stop regretting this. But I also know that I can never put Anna through anything like that again, Robert. She means everything to me. I would never forgive myself if anything happened to her because of the job I do.’

‘I know that,’ Hunter replied. ‘And I don’t blame you, Carlos, not even a little bit. I would’ve done the same thing.’

Hunter’s heartfelt words brought a very feeble ‘thank you’ smile to Garcia’s lips. Hunter picked up on his partner’s embarrassment.

‘You don’t owe anybody any sort of explanation, Carlos, least of all me.’

‘I owe you everything, Robert,’ Garcia interrupted him. ‘I owe you my life. I owe you Anna’s life. It’s because of you that both of us are still alive, remember?’

Hunter didn’t want to talk about the past, so he moved the subject along as swiftly as he could.

‘How’s Anna doing, by the way?’

‘She’s surprisingly OK for someone who went through what she did,’ Garcia said, as he finished emptying the desk drawers. ‘She’s staying at her parents for a couple of days.’

‘She’s a very strong woman,’ Hunter admitted. ‘Physically and mentally.’

‘She is indeed.’

For a moment the awkward silence came back to the room.

‘So where are you going?’ Hunter asked.

Garcia paused and glanced at Hunter. This time he looked a little embarrassed.

‘San Francisco.’

Hunter was unable to hide his surprise.

‘You’re leaving LA?’

‘We decided it would be best if we did, yes.’

Hunter had not seen that coming. In silence, he nodded his understanding. ‘SFPD’s Robbery Homicide Division will be lucky to get you.’

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