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Jan., Feb., Apr. May, June, July 2006 Book Review
Milk and Honey
by Faye Kellerman
Copyright 1990 by Faye Kellerman
Published by Quality Printing and Binding by:
Press and Roller Streets
Kingsport, TN, 37662, U.S.A.
Book Design by Palo PePe
Dedication: To the family--Jonathan, Mom, and the kids.
And to my breakfast buddies: Elyse Wolf, Lynn Rohatiner,
Debi Benaron, and Frieda Katz
The flutter of movement was so slight that had Decker not
been a pro, he would have missed it. He yanked the wheel to
the left and belliously reversed directions in the middle of the
empty intersection. Decker began to cruise down the vacant
street, hoping for a second look at what had attracted his
The Plymouth's alignment was off again, this time pulling to
the right. If he had a spare minute, he'd check it out himself,
haul her onto the lifts and probe her belly. The department
mechanics were a joke. Overworked and underpaid, they'd
fix one problem, cause another. The guys in the division
were always laying odds on what would bust first when the
vehicles were returned from service--six-to-one on a leaky
radiator, four-to-one on a choked carburetor, three-to-one
on the broken air-conditioning system, the odds improving
to two-to-one if it was summertime.
Decker ran his fingers through thick ginger hair. The neigh-
borhood was dead. Whatever he'd seen had probably been
nothing significant. At one in the morning, the eyes played
tricks. In the dark, parked cars looked like giant tortoises,
spindly tree boughs became hanging skeletons. Even a well-
populated housing development like this one seemed like a
ghost town. Rows of tan-colored stucco homes had gelled
into a lump of oatmeal, illuminated by moonbeams and blue-
white spotlights from corner street lamps.
He slowed the Plymouth to a crawl and threw the headlights
on high beam. Perhaps he'd seen nothing more than a cat,
the light a reflection in the feline's eyes. But the radiancy
had been less concentrated and more random, a ripple of
flashes like silver fingernails running up a piano keyboard.
Yet as he peered out the window, he saw nothing unusual.
The planned community was spanking new, the streets still
smelling of recent blacktop, the curbside trees nothing more
than saplings. It had been one of the developers, the
construction agreed upon by both parties while satisfying
neither. The two groups had been at each other's throats
since the Northeast Valley had been gerrymandered. This
project had been hastily erected to smooth ruffled feathers,
but the war between the factions was far from over. Too
much open land left to fight over.
Decker cranked open the window and repositioned his
backside in the seat, trying to stretch. Someday the city
would order an unmarked able to accommodate a person
of his size, but for now it was knees-to-the-wheel time.
The night was mild, the fog had yet to settle in.
Visibility was still good.
What the h.. had he seen?
If he had to work tomorrow, he would have quit and headed
home. But nothing awaited him on his day off except
a lunch date with a ghost. His stomach churned at the
thought, and he tried to forget about it--him. Better to deal
with the past in the light of day.
One more time around the block for good measure. If
nothing popped up, he'd go home.
He was a tenacious son of a b.., part of what made him a
good cop. Anyway, he wasn't tired. He'd taken a catnap
earlier in the evening, right before his weekly Bible
session with Rabbi Schulman. The old man was in his
seventies, yet had more energy than men half his age.
The two of them had learned together for three hours
straight. At midnight, when the rabbi still showed no
signs of tiring, Decker announced he couldn't take any
The old man had smiled and closed his volume of the
Talmud. They were studing civil laws of lost and found.
After the lesson, they talked a bit, smoked some
cigarettes--the first nicotine fix Decker'd had all day.
Thirty minutes later, he departed with an armful of
papers to study for the next week.
But he was too hyped up to go home and sleep. His
favorite method of coping with insomnia was to take
long drives into the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains--
breathe in the beauty of unspoiled land, knolls of
wildflowers and scrub grass, gnarled oaks and honey-
colored maples. The peace and solitude nestled him
like a warm blanket, and within a short period of time
he usually became relaxed enough to sleep. He'd been
on his way home when he noticed the flash of light.
Though he tried to convince himself it was nothing,
something in his gut told him to keep going.
He circled the block, then reluctantly pulled over to
the curb and killed the engine. He sat for a moment,
smoothing his mustache, then slapped the steering
wheel and opened the car door.
What the h.., the walk would do him good. Stretch
out his legs. No one was awaiting his arrival at the
ranch, anyway. The home fires had been put out a
long time ago. Decker thought of his phone
conversation with Rina earlier in the evening.
She'd sounded really lonely, hinted about coming
back to Los Angeles for a visit--just her and not the
boys. Man, had he sounded eager--overeager.
He'd been so d.. excited, she'd probably seen his
horns over the telephone wires. Decker wondered
if he'd scared her off, and made a mental note to
call her in the morning.
He hooked his hand-radio onto his belt, locked the
car, and opened the trunk. The trunk light was
busted, but he could see enough to rummage
through the items--first-aid kit, packet of surgical
gloves, evidence bags, rope, blanket, fire
extinguisher--where had he put the flashlight? He
picked up the blanket. Success! And miracles of
miracles, the batteries still had juice in them.
A quick search on foot.
The early morning air felt good on his face. He
heard his own footsteps reverberating in the quiet
of the night and felt as if he were violating
someone's privacy. Something darted in front of
his feet. A small animal--a rat or a lizard. Scores
of them roamed the developments, all of the
suckers p.. off at being displaced by building
foundation. But that wasn't what he'd seen before.
That had been bigger, at least the size of a dog or
cat. Yet its gait had been odd--staggering, as if
He walked a half-block to the north, shining his
beam between the nearly identical houses. Not
much space to illuminate; the homes almost
abutted one another, separated only by a hedge
of Eugenia saplings. The houses were cheaply
built, the stucco barely dry but already beginning
to crack. The front lawns were patches of green
sod, and many of them held swing sets and
aluminum lawn furniture. Some of the driveways
were repositories for toys, bicycles, baby walkers,
bats and balls. The uncluttered driveways housed
vans and station wagons, and small motorboats as
well. Lake Castaic was fifteen minutes away.
The developers had advertised that, and had
succeeded in their goal of attracting young families.
Ten percent down and low-cost financing hadn't
He strolled to the end of the street--this one was
called Pine Road--then crossed over and started
back to the unmarked. Then he heard it--a faint
whistling in the background. A familiar sound,
one that he'd heard many times in the past but
couldn't place at the moment.
He jogged in its direction. The sound grew a
little louder, then stopped. He waited a minute.
Frustrated, he decided to head home, then
heard the whistling again, farther in the distance.
Whatever was making the noise was on the
move, and it was a quick little bugger.
He sprinted two blocks down Pine Road and
turned onto Ohio Avenue. Loads of imagination
the developers had when naming the streets.
The north-south roads were trees, east-west were
The noise became louder, one that Decker
recognized, immediately. His heart raced against
his chest. The adrenaline surge. The sound was
now clear--a high-pitched wail. G.. wonder it
didn't wake up the entire neighborhood.
He ran in the direction of the shriek, pulling out
his radio and calling for backup--screaming
heard on Ohio and Sycamore. He pulled out his
"Police!" he shouted. "Freeze!"
His voice echoed in the darkness. The crying
continued, softer than before.
"Police!" Decker yelled again.
A door opened.
"What's going on out there?" asked a deep male
voice, heavy with sleep.
"Police," Decker answered, "Stay inside your
The door slammed shut.
Across the street, a light brightened an upstairs
window. A face peeked out between the curtains.
Again, the crying faded to nothing. Silence, then
a chorus of crickets singing backup for a
The noise returned again, this time short sobs
and gasps for air. Obviously a female, possibly
a rape victim.
He would have received the call anyway.
"Police," Decker shouted in the direction of
the crying. "Stay where you are, ma'am. I'm
here to help you."
The sobbing stopped, but he could hear
footsteps trudging through the Eugenias,
followed by the creak of unoiled metal.
Decker felt his fingers grip the butt of his
Beretta. The sky held oyster-colored clouds,
the smiling face of the man in the moon.
Enough illumination to see pretty well even
without the flashlight.
Then Decker saw it--the gling of metal!
He jumped out from the Eugenias and
The reaction he received was a high-pitched
tinkle of startled laughter.
The kid had to be under two, still retaining
the chubby cheeks of a baby. It was
impossible to tell whether it was a boy or a
girl, but whatever it was had a head full of
ringlets and saucer-shaped eyes. It was
swinging on the seesaw on somebody's
front lawn, fragile little hands gripping the
handlebars, eyes staring up in wonderment.
Decker became aware of the gun in his hand,
his finger wrapped around the trigger.
Shakily, he returned the automatic to his
shoulder harness, and called off the backups
on his wireless.
"Off," ordered a tiny voice.
"For heaven's sakes!" Decker stopped the
seesaw. The toddler climbed off.
"Up," it said, raising its hands in the air.
Decker picked the child up. The toddler
lay its head against Decker's chest.
He stroked its silken curls.
"I'm calling the police out there," yelled
a frightened voice from inside the house.
"I am the police," Decker answered. He
walked up to the front door and displayed
his badge to a peephole. The door opened
a crack, the chain still fastened. Decker
could make out unshaven skin, a dark,
Decker said, "I found this child on your
"My God!" said a muffled female voice.
"Do you know who this child belongs to?"
"Know the kid, Jen?" the man asked gruffly.
The door opened all the way.
"You found him outside my house?"
Jen said. She looked to be in her early
thirties, her hair dark brown, pulled back
into a knot. "Why he's just a baby!"
"Yes, ma'am," said Decker, "I found him
or her on your swing set."
"I've never seen the kid before in my life,"
"The neighborhood's crawling with rug
rats," the unshaven man said. "All I know
is he's not one of ours."
"There're lots of new families in the area,"
Jen said. She shrugged apologetically.
"It's hard to keep track of all the kids."
Decker said, "No sense waking up the entire
neighborhood. I'm sure we'll get a panic call
in the morning. The baby will be at the
Foothill station. Spread the word, huh?"
"Sure, Officer, we will," Jen said.
"I'm goin' upstairs," said the husband.
"Back to sleep!"
"Goodness." Jen shook her head. "That
little cutie was right outside my house?"
Jen chucked the child's chin. "Hi there,
sweetheart. Can I give you a cookie?"
Decker said, "I don't think we should feed
the child right now. It's a little late."
"Oh yes," Jen said. "Of course, you're
right. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?"
"Thank you but no, ma'am"
"What's a baby doing out in the middle
of the night like that?" Jen chucked the
child's chin again.
"I don't know, ma'am." Decker gave her
his card. "Call me if you hear of anything."
"Oh, I will, I will. The community's still
pretty manageable. It shouldn't be too
hard to locate his parents."
"Jennn!" screamed the husband from
upstairs. "C'mon! I gotta get up early."
"What will you do with him?" Jen asked
quickly. "Or maybe its a her. Looks like
a little girl, don't you think?"
Decker smiled noncommittally.
"What do you do with stray kids like this,
poor little thing?"
"He or she will be cared for until we can
locate the parents."
"Will she be put in a foster home?"
"That man drives me nuts!" Jen whispered
"Thanks for your time, ma'am," Decker said.
The door closed behind him, the chain was
refastened to the post.
Decker looked at the toddler and said,
"Where the heck did you come from, buddy?"
The child smiled.
"Got some teeth there, huh? How many do
you have? Ten maybe?"
The child stared at him, played with a button
on his shirt.
"Well, as long as we're up so late how 'bout
you coming to my place for a nightcap, huh?"
The child buried its head in Decker's shoulder.
"Rather sleep, huh? You must be a girl. It's
the story of my life."
Decker headed toward the unmarked.
"Lord only knows how you escaped. Your
mom is going to have a fit in the morning."
The toddler tucked its arms under its body.
"Snuggly little thing, aren't you? How the
heck did I notice you in the first place? Must
have been the shiny zipper on your PJs."
"Pee jehs," said the child.
"Yeah, PJs. What color are they? Red?
Pinkish red, kind of. Bet you are a girl."
"A gull!" mimicked the toddler.
Decker's smile faded. Something in the
air. He smelled it now--the stale odor on its
hands, on the front of its pajamas. Clotted
blood. He hadn't noticed it at first because
it had blended with the color of the child's
"Jesus!" he wispered,his hands shaking.
He clutched the toddler, ran back to the
unmarked, and unlocked the door.
Where the h.. was the kid bleeding from!
He placed the baby on the backseat and
unzipped its pajama sleeper. He shined his
flashlight on the little body, the skin as smooth
and pink as a ripe nectarine. Not a scratch on
the chest, back, or shoulders. The forearms
and wrist were spotted with a small, dry rash,
but the rest of the toddler's skin wasn't cut,
cracked, or punctured. Decker turned the child
over. The back was clear as well.
He held his breath, praying that this wasn't
another ugly sexual-abuse case. He undid the
diaper. It was soaked, but as far as he could
tell, the child was unscathed. It was a she,
and no blood was flowing from any of her
orifices. He refastened the diaper as best he
could, then checked her throat, her head, her
ears, her nose. The kid endured the
mpromptu examination with stoicism.
No signs of external or internal bleeding.
Decker exhaled forcibly. He swaddled her in a
blanket, pulled out an evidence bag, and
dropped the pajama sleeper inside. He buckled
her in the backseat as tightly as he could, then
drove to the station.
This concludes chapter ONE of Milk and Honey by
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