Authors: Lee Killough
Cover art by Michelle Lee 2011
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
The Body in the Bay
Where do they begin, the roads that lead a man to hell?
With a ritual
Lien Takananda sat at the kitchen table wearing her bathrobe, her short helmet of black hair still rumpled from sleep. She held three Chinese coins, concentrating, though aware of her husband Harry upstairs in the bathroom, singing a lascivious parody of a saccharine popular song as he shaved. Almond eyes on the copy of
before her, she asked the same question she had every morning for over fifteen years, since Harry joined the San Francisco police: “Will my husband be safe today?” Then she threw the coins.
The six throws produced hexagram number ten,
Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger,
the text read.
It does not bite the man. Success
She sighed in relief, then smiled, listening to Harry sing. After a minute, she gathered the coins again, and as she had done for most of the past year, asked on behalf of Harry’s partner, “Will Garreth Mikaelian be safe today?”
This time the coins produced hexagram number thirty-six,
Darkening of the Light
, with two moving lines. She bit her lip. The text of both the hexagram and the individual lines was cautionary. However, the moving lines produced a second hexagram, forty-six,
, which read:
Pushing upward has supreme success. One must see the great man. Fear not
She read the interpretation of the text just to be certain of its meaning. Reassured, Lien wrapped the coins and book in black silk and returned them to their shelf, then began preparing Harry’s breakfast.
...with nagging grief...
Garreth Mikaelian still felt the void in his life and in the apartment around him. Through the open bathroom door he saw the most visible evidence: the bed, empty, slightly depressed on one side but otherwise neat. Marti’s sprawling, twisting sleep used to turn their nights into a wrestle for blankets that left them in a tangled knot every morning.
He looked away quickly and concentrated on his reflection in the mirror. A square face with sandy hair and smoky gray eyes looked back at him, filling the mirror. Filling it a bit more than he liked, admittedly, but the width gave the illusion of a big man, larger than his actual five foot eight.
And makes you look like a cop even stark naked, my man
, he silently told the reflection.
He leaned closer to the mirror, frowning as he worked the humming razor across his upper lip. He looked older than he would like, too. Barely twenty-eight and lines already etched down his forehead between his eyes and around the corners of his mouth...lines not there a year ago.
Don’t I ever stop missing her?
When Judith walked out he felt more relief than anything, though he missed his son. But Marti was different from Judith. He could talk to her. After what she saw as a nurse in the ER at San Francisco General every day, he had not been afraid of shocking or frightening her by talking about what happened to him at work, or of the examples he witnessed of man’s unrelenting and fiendishly imaginative inhumanity to man. He could even cry in front of her and still feel like a man. They were two halves of the same soul.
His fingers tightened around the razor, dragging it under his chin. His vision blurred. Fate was a bitch! Why else give him such a woman and then put her and their unborn child in an intersection with an impatient driver trying to beat the light.
When does the pain stop? When does the emptiness fill
At least he had the department. He could fill the void with work.
with a corpse
The body floated face down in the bay, held on the surface by air trapped under its shirt and red suit coat. Carried on the tide, supported by its chance water wings, it drifted into the watery span between Fisherman’s Wharf and the forbidding silhouette of Alcatraz Island. Bobbing, it awaited discovery.
says you need to be careful today, Mik-san.” From where he stood pouring himself a cup of coffee, Harry Takananda’s voice carried to Garreth above Homicide’s background noise of murmuring voices, ringing telephones, and tapping typewriters.
Squatted on his heels pawing through the bottom drawer of a file cabinet, Garreth nodded. “Right,” he said around the pencil in his mouth.
Harry added two lumps of sugar to the coffee. “But Lien says there is good fortune in acting according to duty.”
Devoted to duty, that’s me, Harry-san.” Now, where the hell was that damned file?
Harry stared into the coffee, then added two more lumps of sugar before carrying the cup back to his desk. He sat down at the typewriter. The chair grunted in protest, bearing witness to how many times Harry had added those extra lumps over the years.
Rob Cohen, whose desk sat on the other side of a pillar from Harry’s, asked, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”
My wife does.” Harry sipped his coffee, then hunched over the typewriter. “I went through the book once and found that of the sixty-four hexagrams, only half a dozen are outright downers. The odds are she’ll throw a positive hexagram most mornings, so, Inspector-san...” He steepled his fingers and bowed toward Cohen, voice rising into a singsong. “...if it give honorable wife peace of mind, this superior man should not object, you aglee?”
Cohen pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Maybe I should introduce my wife to
At the file cabinet, Garreth grinned.
The door of the lieutenant’s office opened. Lucas Serruto stepped out waving a memo sheet. His dark, dapper good looks always made Garreth think of an actor cast to play a detective in a movie where the cop was the hero. Garreth envied the way Serruto made anything he wore appear expensive and custom-tailored. “Any volunteers to go look at a floater?”
Around the office, heads bent industriously over reports and typewriters.
Serruto surveyed the room for a minute, then shrugged. “Eenie, meenie, minie — Takananda, the Cicione killing is in the hands of the DA, isn’t it? That leaves you with just the bodega shooting.”
Harry looked up. “Yes, but that’s so — ”
Good. You and Mikaelian take the floater.” He handed Harry the memo. “The Coast Guard is waiting for you bayside.”
With a sigh, Harry gulped his coffee. Garreth shoved the file drawer closed and stood up.
They left, pulling on raincoats.
Driving out of the parking lot, Harry headed toward the Embarcadero. The city flowed past the car, muted by fog, swathed in it. The radio crackled and murmured, dispatching officers across the city. Foghorns hooted.
Let’s try to get out at a reasonable time tonight, shall we?” Harry asked. “Lien wants to feed us supper before it mummifies keeping warm.”
? You’re asking me over again?” Garreth shook his head. “Harry, I can’t keep eating your groceries. If nothing else, Lien’s cooking is changing my name to Girth Mikaelian.” He ruefully ran a thumb inside his snug belt.
She’ll have my hide if I don’t bring you. Lacking a houseful of kids...” Harry’s smile did not hide an old regret in his voice. “...she has only you and her art class kids to mother. Don’t fight it.”
There had been weeks after Marti’s death when only Lien kept him from being a basket case. Garreth owed her a great deal. “I’ll come.”
The car swung onto the Embarcadero. Harry hugged the wheel, as though leaning forward helped to see better. “Sometimes I wonder what it would be like living where there’s a real summer, and maybe even sunshine in August.”
Come along the next time I go to Davis to visit my kid and find out.”
They turned in at the pier number on the memo and drove down to a barrier of vehicles. There they climbed out. Fog enveloped them, cold and damp. Garreth shoved his hands in his coat pockets and huddled deeper in the collar as he and Harry walked the rest of the way.
Near the end of the pier the usual post-violent-death circus had set up: uniformed officers, Crime Lab, Photo Lab, an ambulance crew from the medical examiner’s office along with an assistant ME, and this time, Coast Guard, too.
Hi, Jim,” Harry said to one of the Coast Guard officers.
Jim Birkinshaw smiled. “Hell of a way to start a morning, Harry.”
Garreth moved as close to the body as possible without interfering with the photographer. The victim had been stretched out on his back, but he still looked less than funeral-parlor neat. His rumpled coat had twisted up around his neck, and a spreading stain of salt water surrounded him.
Strange how you could always tell the dead ones, Garreth reflected. They looked different from living people, even different from someone unconscious. They lay awkwardly, slack, collapsed into postures no vital body would assume.
He pulled out his notebook and began taking down a description of the corpse. White male, brown hair of medium length, 170 to 180 pounds. Five ten? Garreth found estimation difficult in a horizontal position. Red suit coat with black velvet collar and lapels, black trousers, black boots with inseam zippers. Evening wear. Garreth moved around the outside of the group at work to look at the face for an age determination.
Birkinshaw said, “I don’t think he’d been in the water long. The pilot of the Alcatraz excursion boat spotted the coat on his first run out this morning.”
Harry shook his head. “A wonderful treat for the tourists.”
Garreth jotted down the discovery details, then wrote a dollar sign. Even wet, the clothes retained a quiet elegance. That kind of understatement came with a high price tag. The carefully manicured nails on the out flung gray hands matched the clothing.
The photographer stepped back, giving way to the assistant ME, Catherine Ho. In the course of examining the dead man, she pulled loose the twisted coat. Garreth caught his breath, a gasp echoed by others around him. The action rolled the dead man’s head and exposed a gaping wound in the throat, a slash stretching from ear to ear and so deep that spine showed.