The Body in the Bay
Where do they begin, the roads that lead a man to hell?
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
The six throws produced hexagram number ten,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
At least he had the department. He could fill the void with work.
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.
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.