Reptile Smile by David White"Reptile Smile" by David White, Shred of Evidence, February 2005
This story fills in more background on Mr. White's series sleuth, Jackson Donne. It is actually a "sequel" to his story, "Darkness on the Edge of Town", published in Thrilling Detective, taking place two months after the events in “Darkness”. The time is 1998, and Jackson Donne is still a cop, a newly minted detective.
Jackson's partner, Detective Bill Martin, is the viewpoint character of this story. This is a double departure from the contemporary stories in that not only is Donne not the viewpoint character, this story, like "Darkness", is told in third person. Mr. White doesn't seem quite as comfortable in third person as he is in first, but I noticed that there is an improvement from "Darkness". In any case, that wasn't enough to affect my enjoyment of the story.
The story opens with Martin and Donne shaking down a rich banker who had been filmed buying drugs. As you might guess Martin and Donne, members of the Narc Force, are not the cleanest cops in town.
During a conversation Martin discovers that Donne is going to get married. Martin worries about how much Donne’s intended, Jeanne, knows about their little side business. Donne says she doesn’t know anything, but Martin has a feeling that Donne will eventually tell her.
Martin goes to see the head of the Narc Force, Leo Carver, to drop off his cut of the “donation”. Between them they decide to have Jeanne killed. Martin then goes to see a hitman they have used before, and arranges the hit.
On the night the hit was supposed to take place, Martin and Donne are out cruising the streets. Martin decides to stop and talk to one of their snitches. The snitch, Jesus, tells Donne that the word on the street is that someone is going to kill him and his woman. Not what Martin wanted to hear.
Donne and Martin pile back into the car with Donne urging Martin to step on it. They have to get to Jeanne’s apartment. Martin doesn’t have much of a choice. When they arrive the hitman’s there, but Jeanne’s still alive. The hitman surrenders peaceably, and Donne rushes into the bedroom to comfort Jeanne. From this point to the end of the story, the situation is pregnant with possibility.
I like Mr. White’s use of language: “He wore sweatpants and a thick black parka that looked like a burnt marshmallow.” That’s particularly nice.
The reader’s identification with Donne isn’t as strong in this story because of the third person and Martin being the viewpoint character, but I understand why Mr. White did this. The third person separates the background stories from the contemporary stories, and this particular story would have been very difficult to tell from Donne’s viewpoint.
In short, an enjoyable read.