Ash Rashid returns in this new novel from New York Times bestselling writer Chris Culver, author of The Abbeythe runaway bestseller with a million copies sold to date.
Indianapolis Detective Ash Rashid isn't the sort of man who lets rules stand in the way of the pursuit of justice. But his work has taken a toll on him professionally and emotionally, and after twelve years in uniformhe wants out. That changes, though, when the mother of one of his daughter's friends is murdered in front of her homea crime that members of his department would seemingly rather ignore than investigate. Ash launches an inquiry and quickly becomes entangled in a case involving a dangerous mix of election-year politics, crime, and street justice. What he finds may have repercussions for the entire city . . .
About the Author
Chris Culver is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ash Rashid series of mysteries. After graduate school, Chris taught courses in ethics and comparative religion at a small liberal arts university in southern Arkansas. Between classes, he wrote The Abbey, which spent sixteen weeks on the New York Times ebook bestseller list. He, his wife, and their Labrador retriever currently live near St. Louis, Missouri, where Chris is working on his next novel.
Read an Excerpt
By Chris Culver
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Chris Culver
All rights reserved.
There were two armed men in his backyard when Detective Ash Rashid came home from work, and neither looked happy to see him. The first man was an inch or two under six feet tall and had a slight build and a wisp of a goatee on his chin. He sneered as soon as Ash came into view, clearly trying to look menacing but just as clearly failing. He centered his weight on his heels, which meant it would take him at least a second and a half to remove his weapon from his shoulder holster and pivot into a shooter's stance. He would have been dead twice over by the time that happened. He wasn't a threat.
The man's partner, though, was a different story. Ash didn't know his name, but in his internal monologue, he called him the Hulk. They had run into each other about a year earlier, after Ash shot the man's son in the chest and shoulder during an investigation. His son lived, but the Hulk didn't seem to be the forgiving sort. He stood at least six-five and had to be pushing three hundred pounds. Someone that big could take a lot of damage before going down, and Ash doubted his department-issue, forty-caliber Glock would cut it.
He slid his hand from the firearm inside his jacket to his side and closed the gate to his cedar fence before stepping deeper into the yard. As soon as he did, he spotted the real threat. Konstantin Bukoholov. The skin on Bukoholov's neck was loose and jaundiced, and fresh liver spots marked his hands. His eyes were as Ash remembered them, though: cold and unfeeling. The old man had tipped him off to a drug-smuggling ring operating out of a nightclub in one of the city's suburbs a year ago. Ash investigated and ended up bringing down one of the largest drug suppliers in the region; in the process, he unwittingly eliminated one of Bukoholov's biggest competitors and likely doubled the old man's market share. Why Bukoholov sat in his backyard now, Ash didn't know.
He crossed the lawn, eyeing the guards. Bukoholov sat at Ash's teak outdoor table under a cedar pergola. The table had been set with three coffee mugs, all of which held a thick, black liquid. Bukoholov stood as he approached and held his hand out as if he wanted to shake. Ash ignored it.
"What are you doing here?"
Bukoholov gestured at the chair opposite him. "I'm enjoying your wife's very interesting coffee. Please sit. We have business to discuss."
Very interesting was one way of describing Hannah's coffee. It was so black and acidic it could have doubled as drain cleaner. If Hannah had made Bukoholov and his men coffee, she must be okay.
He nodded toward the Hulk. "Tell the goon squad to go back to your car. Call it a good faith gesture."
Bukoholov barked an order, and the two men slipped through the gate, exiting the yard. Ash pulled out a chair and sat down.
"You look good, Detective Rashid."
Ash leaned back and crossed his arms. "What do you want?"
Bukoholov took a sip of coffee but dropped the cup as a fit of coughing wracked his body. Hannah's coffee had a tendency to do that to the unprepared. Ash remained silent as Bukoholov regained his composure and ability to speak.
He stared at his spilled drink. "Excuse me. Your wife's coffee is quite strong."
"Yes, it is. I'll ask you again, though. What do you want?"
Bukoholov tilted his head to the side and shrugged. He managed to appear almost grandfatherly.
"It's always business with you, Detective. You should learn how to make small talk. We haven't seen each other in almost a year, and yet you dive right into business. How is a friend supposed to react to that?"
"We're not friends. We worked on a project once, and I've regretted it ever since. That project is now over, as is this conversation. Get out of my yard."
Bukoholov held up his hands in a placating gesture. He closed his eyes. "Just give me a moment," he said. "I want to talk to you about a job. You need to hear what I have to say."
Ash leaned forward. His eyes felt dry, and he wanted to blink, but he forced them to stay open. A shiver traveled up his spine as a late-fall breeze sent leaves skittering across the blue stone patio.
"I've already got a job, Mr. Bukoholov. A good one."
At least he had been truthful about part of that statement. Ash was the highest ranking sworn officer assigned to the investigative unit of Indianapolis's prosecutor's office. In most units, Ash's status as detective sergeant would make him a supervisory officer with privileges and responsibilities in accord with his rank. His actual unit was so small and specialized, though, that rank rarely mattered; everyone simply did whatever the prosecuting attorneys needed. It was a good job, usually. The pay was steady, and the work was interesting and varied. But with an election coming up, things were changing, and not for the better.
"This is a special sort of job. At four this afternoon, there was a car accident about two miles from here. A woman was killed. Did you see it on the news yet?"
Ash shook his head.
"It was a hit-and-run," Bukoholov continued. "The woman who was hit died on the way to the hospital."
"We'll pray for her family," said Ash, glancing at his gate. "If that's all you came to tell me, you can leave now."
"The woman's name was Cassandra Johnson. She had a daughter named Lisa. I believe you know them both."
Ash blinked several times, sure that he had misheard him.
"Cassandra and Lisa Johnson?"
"I believe that's what I said."
Ash felt as if he had just been slapped in the face. Lisa was his daughter's best friend. They rode the same bus; they played T-ball together; they had sleepovers. They were together so often in the summer that it felt as if he had a third kid; Lisa even called him Uncle Ash. Hannah and Cassandra, while perhaps not as close as their daughters, talked regularly and went to the same all- women's yoga class. Bukoholov stared at him knowingly.
"Is Lisa okay?"
"I'm sure she's fine."
Ash inhaled deep enough that he could feel his chest rise. Indianapolis wasn't generally big enough to have organized crime like Chicago or New York; instead, it had loosely affiliated gangs, most of which came and went after their leaders killed each other in disputes over women or turf. Bukoholov was the closest thing the city had to a real crime boss, and he wouldn't risk being in a detective's backyard without damn good reason.
"Why are you really here?"
Bukoholov smiled. "I have only the best of intentions, I assure you."
"Bullshit. Get out of my yard."
Instead of leaving, Bukoholov reached into his jacket. Instinctively, Ash reached into his own and pulled out his firearm. He rested it on the table, a finger hovering over the trigger guard.
"Carefully reconsider your next move," said Ash. "I want to see your hands right now."
Bukoholov did as he was told and pulled his arm back, exposing a brick of hundred-dollar bills in his hand. He dropped the money onto the table and pulled his hands back slowly, showing his palms as if he had nothing to hide.
"For any expenses you may come across in your investigation."
Ash knew detectives in the narcotics squad who could look at a bundle of money and estimate its value to within a couple hundred bucks without batting an eye. Stacks of cash were just another part of their world. Ash didn't live in that world, though. He crossed his arms, trying not to stare.
"Take your money and get out of my yard."
Bukoholov stared at him for a moment, but then broke eye contact and sighed audibly. "I'm sorry we couldn't come to an arrangement," he said, pushing himself upright. "I'm sure someone will eventually discover what happened to her."
"Get your money and get out of my yard."
Bukoholov waved him off before turning to leave. "Put it in your kids' college savings accounts. You need it more than me."
Ash followed him out of the yard with his eyes before taking out his cell phone. He didn't trust Bukoholov, but the old man didn't make a habit of lying to him. Something was going on. He searched through his contact list for Cassandra Johnson's cell number. Her phone rang six times before going to voice mail.
"Hi, Cassandra, this is Ash Rashid. When you get this message, can you call me back either on my cell phone or at the house? Nothing is wrong, but it's important that you contact Hannah or me as soon as you can. I'd really appreciate it."
As soon as Ash finished that call, he called Cassandra's home number and left a similar message when no one picked up. It was probably a waste of everyone's time, but he also called IMPD's dispatcher and asked if there had been any accidents near Cassandra's home. The dispatcher hadn't heard of any, but Ash requested she send a squad car by Cassandra's house for a resident safety check anyway. No one would go in the house without cause, but officers would knock on the door and peer in a few windows to see if they could find anything untoward inside. Hopefully Cassandra and Lisa went out somewhere and left her cell phone at home.
With his immediate concerns quelled somewhat, Ash picked up the money from the table. Fifty one-hundred-dollar bills. As much as his family needed it, he'd sooner beg than accept a gift from Bukoholov; his money was dirty no matter how many times he washed it. He holstered his firearm before slipping the bundle of money into the inside pocket of his sport coat. If nothing else, the food bank at his mosque would have a nice donation.
Inside the house, Hannah stood at the sink with a cast-iron skillet in one hand and a green sponge in the other. She smiled at him as he walked through the door, a loose pink scarf covering her hair and neck. Its religious implications aside, Hannah said wearing the hijab around men other than Ash or her father made her feel comfortable in her own skin. She didn't have to worry about strange men hitting on her or staring at her. That was worth well more than a yard or two of silk.
"Look what I drew, Baba."
Ash mouthed hello to his wife before sitting across from his daughter at their breakfast table. As far as he could tell, Megan had drawn an abstract.
"That's a beautiful drawing," he said. "When you're done, we'll hang it on the fridge."
"It's our house," she said.
Now that he knew what it was, Ash saw the resemblance. Megan had drawn a series of brown squares with amorphous green shapes in front. Much like their actual home, Megan's roof sloped unnaturally to one side and her bushes had branches that veered off in every direction. He kissed her forehead and told her that her drawing was very realistic before walking toward his wife at the sink.
"You want me to take over?" he asked, nodding toward a pile of dirty dishes.
"No, I'll finish," said Hannah. "Are those men outside coming back?"
"Good," she said, pulling the scarf from her head. Her straight black hair was pulled back into a lopsided bun, exposing the nape of her neck. "Who were they?"
Ash didn't say anything for a moment as he considered his response. He never liked lying to his wife, and not just because it was a sin. She put up with him, she loved him, and she stayed with him, despite his faults. She deserved the truth; it was as simple as that. At the same time, he didn't want to upset her without cause. Bukoholov, as bad as he was, would never hurt a cop's family. The attention wouldn't be good for business. On balance, it seemed that a white lie in this situation was the best approach.
"It was a couple of guys from work. They wanted to ask me about a case."
Hannah nodded and stared out the window as if she were watching the conversation replay itself. "And what did that man hand you?"
Ash coughed and shifted on his feet. "Some money, but it's not for us. I'm going to give it to charity."
Hannah dropped her sponge and set down the dish she had been scrubbing. She put her hands on the edge of the sink and leaned forward, keeping her gaze riveted on the window. "Why couldn't he donate the money himself?"
On a lot of levels, Ash understood her trepidation. Hannah may not have known Bukoholov, but she still carried the scars—both literal and figurative—from the last job Ash had done for him. He leaned in, catching a whiff of the rose oil she had put on earlier that day.
"When was the last time you talked to Cassandra?"
"Yesterday, I think. Her car's in the shop, so she asked me to pick her up for yoga tonight at the YMCA. You didn't answer my question."
Ash nodded toward the back patio. "That man just told me Cassandra may have been in a car accident. Before you get worried, I called my dispatcher, and she didn't have any records of it. I also tried to call Cassandra but couldn't get in touch with her. Our guest wants me to look into things. The money was a bribe."
Hannah looked confused. "Why would he tell you Cassandra was in an accident if she wasn't?"
"I don't know, but I plan to find out."
"Maybe we should go by her house right now and see."
"I already sent a squad car," said Ash. "If they find anything, they'll give me a call."
"Did he say anything about Lisa?"
"He said she's probably fine. I'm concerned that Cassandra's not answering her phone, though. Would she leave her cell at home if she was on a date?"
Hannah's voice faltered. "I ... I don't know," she said. "She's not seeing anyone, though. I think she would have told me if she had a date. I live vicariously through her."
"Okay," said Ash, feeling his worry start to build. "Could you make me a sandwich? I'm going to go back into work and see what I can find out."
"Sure," she said, nodding. "Can you check on Kaden while I do that?"
"Of course," he said. "And I'm sure everything's okay with Cassandra. I'm just going to follow up."
Ash squeezed his wife's shoulder before walking to his son's nursery. Kaden slept in his crib, his arms raised above his head victoriously as if he had just kicked the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl. His skin was light brown, and his brown eyes sparkled whenever he smiled. He was a good baby, and he seemed to like his father. At least he had stopped peeing on him whenever he changed his diaper.
Since Kaden was asleep, Ash stayed outside the room, watching. After finding out that Hannah was pregnant with a boy, Ash had converted his old home office into a nursery by replacing the dingy carpet with oak hardwood and painting the walls a cheery, pastel yellow. Hannah had then drawn bumblebees near the ceiling. Islamic tradition was to sacrifice a pair of animals and have a party for friends and family when a boy is born. Since Ash was reasonably sure his neighbors would object if he slaughtered a pair of sheep on the front lawn, he and Hannah had instead donated money to Heifer International. Heifer used the money to purchase bees for poor families in Africa; Ash thought the décor fitting.
He watched his son for another minute before joining his wife and daughter in the kitchen again. It was time for salat al-Maghrib, dusk prayer, but nobody made a move to grab their prayer mats from the living room. Ash's mind was focused on his conversation with Bukoholov. At any given time, half a dozen government agencies had open investigations on the old man, and he still managed to conduct his business with relative impunity. He didn't get that power by nosing into other people's business, and he didn't act without thinking first. He expected to get something from his trip to the Rashid household. What, though, Ash didn't know, and that left him unsettled.
As soon as Hannah handed him a sandwich, he kissed her and hugged his daughter good-bye for the evening. In general, traffic accidents were handled by uniformed patrol officers from the various precinct houses around town, but hit- and-runs that ended in death or grave injury went straight to the homicide squad. Ash had spent six years in Homicide, so he knew a good number of the detectives assigned to the unit; hopefully someone would talk to him. He ate his sandwich on the drive but stayed in his car for a moment upon parking and called the dispatcher for an update on the safety check he had requested for Cassandra's place. A pair of officers had swung by the house, but no one answered the door. Unfortunately, without signs of forced entry or other problems, that was all they could do. He'd go by later to see if he could find anything himself, but in the meantime, he'd try another angle.
Excerpted from The Outsider by Chris Culver. Copyright © 2013 Chris Culver. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
All of the Ash Rashid books are good, this one included.
I really looked forward to reading this book after reading, "The Abbey". I love the Ash Rashid character and look forward to future works by Chris Culver.
This was one of the greatest books I have ever read. I hope Chris Culver continues this series. I can hardly wait for the next one.
This was a good read!
..Really enjoy this writer
This book will keep you guessing until the end! Detective Rashid is a detective that is devoted to justice. I am looking forward to the next book in this series
cannnot wait to read
Cris Cluver is a interesting writer. I am enjoying the Ash Rashid series.