James Lee Burke
Book 15 in the Robicheaux series
For our grandchildren-
James Parker McDavid, Emma Marie Walsh,
Jack Owen Walsh, and James Lee Burke IV
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
– John 16:12
IN THE EARLY 1980S, when I was still going steady with Jim Beam straight-up and a beer back, I became part of an exchange program between NOPD and a training academy for police cadets in Dade County, Florida. That meant I did a limited amount of work in a Homicide unit at the Miami P.D. and taught a class in criminal justice at a community college way up on N.W. 27th Avenue, not far from a place called Opa-Locka.
Opa-Locka was a gigantic pink stucco-and-plaster nightmare designed to look like a complex of Arabian mosques. In the early a.m., fog from either the ocean or the Glades, mixed with dust and carbon monoxide, clung like strips of dirty cotton to the decrepit minarets and cracked walls of the buildings. At night the streets were lit by vapor lamps that glowed inside the fog with the dirty iridescence that you associate with security lighting in prison compounds. The palms on the avenues were blighted by disease, the fronds clacking dryly in the fouled air. The yards in the neighborhoods contained more gray sand than grass. Homes that could contain little of value were protected by bars on the windows and razor wire on the fences. Lowrider gangbangers, the broken mufflers of their gas-guzzlers throbbing against the asphalt, smashed liquor bottles on the sidewalks and no one said a word.
For me, it was a place where I didn’t have to make comparisons and where each dawn took on the watery hue of a tequila sunrise. If I found myself at first light in Opa-Locka, my choices were usually uncomplicated: I either continued drinking or entered an altered state known as delirium tremens.