A Layla Remington Mystery

Gil Reavill

New York

Thirteen Hollywood Apes is a work of fiction. Names, places, and
incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An Alibi eBook Original
Copyright © 2014 by Gil Reavill
Excerpt from Thirteen Stolen Girls by Gil Reavill copyright ©
2014 by Gil Reavill
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States of America by Alibi, an imprint of
Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin
Random House Company, New York.
ALIBI is a registered trademark and the ALIBI colophon is a
trademark of Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Thirteen
Stolen Girls by Gil Reavill. This excerpt has been set for this
edition only and may not reflect the final content of the
forthcoming edition.
eBook ISBN 978-0-553-39505-1
Cover design:

Cover illustration:

Chimpanzee, n. [from Bantu kampensi, “fake man” or
“mockman”]: A great ape of the genus Pan, native to Africa,
believed by evolutionary biologists to be the closest existing
relative to human beings.

Our descent, then, is the origin of our evil passions . . . The Devil
under form of Baboon is our grandfather.


The family members settled for the night among the sweetsmelling spindle trees and eucalyptus along the eastern boundary
of the yard. They had been restless all day from the sharp scent of
smoke in the air, the far-off call of sirens, the busy staccato motor
noise of humans in the hills around them. Delinquent flames
showed on a ridgeline to the north, orange-black in the distance.
Dread of fire, an age-old fear, was bred into their bones.
They gathered as a family that sweltering October night, the last of
their lives. For all their nervousness, they performed their usual
evening rituals, grooming one another, shaping their tree-bough
bedding for the night. Janey and Arbor, always the best of friends,
played at tossing clumps of leaves and broken-off sticks onto the
cargo nets strung between wooden posts below them.
They fell into wakeful sleep one after another: Mister
Jeepers, Monk, Chow-Chow, Stella. Veronica curled up with the
playful youngster she had adopted, Bee Bee. Pamela slept with her
daughter, Amy. Eric paired off with the elderly Bess.
Out of the dark came a laser pinprick of light. Odd,
dancing, crimson, it searched among its targets until it settled upon
Booth, the pepper-haired patriarch, who lay alone in a self-created
sling of branches high up in a eucalyptus.
The gunshot broke the night open.

The family startled instantly awake, and the yard echoed
with screeches, barks, and howls. As the others scattered, Booth
remained inert and motionless at the foot of the tree.
The night air filled with sharp, echoing reports, one after
another, spaced among the screams. Moment by moment, the
members of the family fell. The big chain-link fence cut off all
retreat. There was nowhere to run. The killing took but six
Finally only a single lost soul survived, an eight-year-old
male, running along the ditch on the grassy western side of the
compound, frantic after the death ruckus of the others. He sped not
away but toward the shooter. Confused, or angry, bent on revenge.
The ruby laser dot searched, discovered, settled. Five grams
of copper-clad lead caught the last survivor with a glancing blow
on his right shoulder, spun him around, and pushed him into the
concrete ditch.
Then, silence. A few night birds called, poorwills and
mourning doves. Above, through the leaves, the far-off, uncaring
stars. Somewhere to the east a two-stroke engine sputtered,
sounding barely there.
Later that night, the dry October winds pushed the flames
down out of the hills into the parched grasses and brittle, needleheavy trees of the compound. But the wildfire found nothing left to
kill and, in its impotent rage, could do nothing more than cook the

Why a deputy detective investigator with the Los Angeles County
district attorney’s office might be carrying a potato on the night of
the Lost Hills wildfire was a fact that did not readily admit to
The sheriff’s department posted Layla Remington at a
junction along Las Virgenes Road, in the canyons above Malibu.
The sky a mile to the north of her was a wall of smoke, lit orange
and red from the inside, coin-size floaters of ash in the air, with a
background noise like the distant rumbling of a freight train. To the
east, homes, ranches, and camp buildings nestled in the dry
landscape went up like so many birthday candles. The fire teams
found themselves helpless to stop the destruction.
When she was off duty at the D.A.’s office, and in
recognition of the fact that she had no real life, Detective
Investigator Remington volunteered for fire duty. She did backup
traffic control for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,
wearing an orange reflective smock that made her look like a
traffic cone. The big Lost Hills blaze, out to flatten a vast slice of
the county, represented an all-hands-on-deck situation.
From her post at the intersection, Remington could hear the
propane-gas pigs on the barbecue grills outside the burning homes
explode one after another. The fire crowned in dense stands of

sycamore, fir, and gray pine. Mingled with the wood smoke was
the smell of burning meat from all the steak-filled chest freezers in
houses that were getting roasted in the flames.
The beef smell made her think of the potato.
Denny Hamilton, long-dirty-blond-haired, scruffy-bearded
captain of a fire team from the Sierra Nevada that called
themselves the Wooly Mammoth Hot Shots, told Layla Remington
about the potato thing. “An old guy with the Mammoth Lake Fire
Department said they used to do it all the time back during the
“That would be the Civil War, right?”
Denny thought Layla might be serious, not quite getting her
yet. “No, no, I guess he meant, you know, World War Two, or
maybe—Jesus, you’re right, maybe it was Vietnam.”
“The potato thing, Denny,” Layla prompted him.
Hamilton was waiting around at her intersection after a
resupply, looking for a lift back to the front lines. Layla didn’t
mind him hanging out. The guy looked half-charred, his eyebrows
singed off, the scruff on the right side of his face curled by wildfire
heat. He was dirty and ashy and in his rootless early twenties, like
hotshot team members everywhere. But the whole package added
up to hero-handsome.
“Okay, so you find a century plant, like an agave, you
know? The spiky ones? And you impale your tuber onto the top
spike.” Hamilton mimed the move, impaling one of the several

potatoes he kept on his person on an imaginary cactus.
“Like you leave it on the cactus spike there, it kind of looks
like those tennis balls people put on the ends of their car antennas,
you know?”
“Then the fire comes along—”
“Right, yeah, the fire comes and cooks it, but that isn’t the
only thing. Agave plants are designed to survive fire, you know?
Like, they’re like jack pines and ponderosas, you know? Wildfires
are good for them.”
“Right,” Layla said, wanting him to get on with it.
“The heat forces the sap of the agave up through the spike
and into the tuber. What you get is a baked potato that tastes like a
hit of mescal.”
Layla scoffed. The Wooly Mammoth Hot Shots were all
wastrels. They worked hard, but they played even harder. Tequila
was their national pastime, and mescal was their world series.
Hotshot teams were part of a whole weird subculture. In the
off-season for wildfires, most of these guys (and girls, not many,
but a few) worked as guides on river-rafting excursions in Alaska,
say, or on ski patrol in Utah. Or they surfed in Costa Rica. They
were itinerant risk junkies. Some of them had no permanent
addresses; they just lived out of storage lockers.
“There aren’t any agave plants in Malibu,” Layla told
Denny when he tried to push a potato on her.
“You can stick it on a branch of a ponderosa pine—it

comes out tasting like butterscotch.”
Layla laughed and shook her head. The guy was so damned
“No, really,” Denny insisted. “What you do is you go up to
a ponderosa pine that has direct sunlight shining on it, give it a
hug. I’m telling you, put your face right into the bark—it smells
exactly like butterscotch. Like, I mean, exactly.”
“You’re a tree-hugger now, Denny?”
“Did you know the first tree-huggers were a band of Hindu
women in the foothills of the Himalayas who were trying to save a
grove of sacred trees from loggers?”
Later that night Denny Hamilton went up-canyon to face
off with Lost Hills. Layla wound up holding one of his big oblong
Idaho baking potatoes. She stuffed it into the pocket of her orange
reflective smock. She thought she might try out the “tuber or not
tuber” pun that her dad had taught her on some poor victim, but in
the flurry of activity around the wildfire she actually forgot about
the thing.
Until the nimrod in the Mercedes morgue wagon showed
He came on a little after 1


The blocky, outlandish

vehicle he drove pretended to be a sport-utility crossover of some
sort, the German answer to the Hummer. For all its upscale design,
a Mercedes G55 AMG wound up looking like a child’s idea of a
hearse. The black truck gave a throaty growl as it pulled up at the

Las Virgenes Road intersection.
The driver didn’t even bother to roll down his window, just
pointed past the roadblock up toward the fire. Deputy John Velske,
one of several Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel
assembled at the intersection, approached the vehicle. He made a
circling motion with his finger, indicating that the driver should
open his window, the gesture held over from when people still
cranked windows down manually.
“Sir, this road is closed.” Velske stated it as a fact but kept
his tone polite.
“Gotta get up there,” the driver barked. He was smooth and
well tanned, as if he had been cast in an ad for the car he was
“We have emergency protocols in place, sir,” Velske said.
“Deputy, is it? Deputy, I’ve got a five-million-dollar
residence up in Coral Canyon and I am within my rights to secure
said residence.”
Great, we’ve got ourselves a lawyer. Remington could
almost read Velske’s thoughts.
“I could try to contact the fire teams in the vicinity and
have them radio down a report,” the deputy offered.
“I don’t want a goddamn report, Deputy. I want to retrieve
the three gold records that are up on the wall in my office, the
platinum record in the entry hall, the contents of my safe.”
Velske turned to Remington and mouthed the word

“What did you just say to her?” Like the guy could read
lips. He wore his hair wicked up and, even though it was past
midnight, had a pair of five-hundred-dollar sunglasses propped on
the back of his head, probably slept with them on.
He said, “Okay, I’m heading up right now, and if you try to
restrain me the sheriff’s department is going to find itself in a
world of trouble.”
The Mercedes G55 lurched forward an inch as the driver
slammed it into gear. Remington marveled. She had seen men face
off like this all her professional life, and even before, in the school
yard. Velske and the morgue-wagon driver were like a couple of
silverback gorillas in the rain forest. What was the guy going to do
now, plow his rig over a sheriff’s deputy?
What he did instead was maneuver his ultra-expensive
sport utility into the ditch for a little improvised off-roading.
None of the law-enforcement personnel stationed at the
intersection could believe it. The nimrod had a death wish. Coral
Canyon was right in the path of the Lost Hills fire.
“Sir? Sir?” Deputy Velske yelled, but the guy just kept
As the glossy Mercedes bumped slowly past her,
Remington extracted the potato that Denny Hamilton had given her
from the pocket of her smock. She reached down and crammed the
tuber into the vehicle’s exhaust pipe, where it vented immediately

in front of the rear wheel.
Velske saw her make the move. He grinned and nodded.
The two of them watched the driver pull down into the ditch,
around the roadblock, and back up onto the pebbled asphalt of Las
“I’ll give him fifty yards,” Velske said, staring after the
“Twenty,” Remington guessed.
The Mercedes compromised and died about thirty yards up
the road, the exhaust fumes backed up in the manifold to choke off
the engine.
“You know, the Germans just don’t make cars like they
used to,” Velske said.
The platinum-record-in-the-entry-hall guy stormed out of
the G55 and stood there staring at his $115,000 vehicle, disabled
by a potato.
The shoulder-mounted two-way that Remington wore
crackled with incoming comms from Denny Hamilton’s team
working in the hills.
“Wooly Mammoths Hot . . . We’re at . . . 34.115642 north,
118.679937 west . . . We got . . . Trappe Ranch . . . wildlife
sanctuary.” Blasts of static kept interrupting the message.
Remington fumbled with her speaker-mic. “Mammoths,
this is the sheriff’s post at Las Virgenes Road. Repeat.”
“. . . Thirteen dead monkeys . . .”

“Mammoths, this is Las Virgenes roadblock. Please repeat.
The connection went cold.

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