overnight case missing from her closet, but her big suitcases are still there.”

“I assume she drove.”

“Yes. She has a white…I think it’s a Toyota, about five years old.”

“Do you know the model?”

“No.” He spread his hands apologetically. “I have a VW beetle and, except for that type, all cars look alike to me.”

I noted the probable make and year of Jane’s car. “Do you have a picture of your roommate?”

He turned and gestured to the far wall, which was covered with photographs. “The one on the extreme left.”

I got up and went over to it. Jane Anthony was a strong-featured woman in her mid-thirties. Her dark hair was pulled back severely, accentuating her prominent nose and the forward thrust of her chin. It was not a pretty face, but a commanding one and, surprisingly, Snelling had made her attractive in the photo. It was not what one expected of the man who termed his work “the portraiture of realism.”

I turned. “Do you have a copy that I could have?”

“Yes, upstairs.” He got up and went toward the circular stairway. “I’ll get one.”

While he was gone, I turned back to the wall and looked at the other photos. They were by no means the pretty tinted variety you saw in the windows of ordinary photographers’ studios. Instead, they were severe and uncompromisingly truthful-Snelling’s trademark. I went to the opposite wall where, over the stone fireplace, I had spotted the picture that had made him famous.

It had happened only a year ago, when Abe Snelling was merely another down-at-the-heels photographer roaming San Francisco’s streets in search of subjects. One morning while passing the Blue Owl Cafe, here on Potrero Hill near San Francisco General Hospital, Snelling had seen a man run out, pursued by the restaurant proprietor, a gentle soul who was well liked in the neighborhood. Sensing the unusual and obeying his photographer’s instincts, Snelling readied his camera. The two men struggled, a shot was fired, the proprietor staggered and fell to the ground, and the robber ran off. As the proprietor’s wife knelt over the dying man, futilely willing the life to stay in his body, Snelling snapped picture after picture of her anguished face. The photograph that he sold to the evening paper was picked up by the wire services, and eventually was featured on the cover of Time’s issue on crime in the cities.

It was a grisly beginning, but Snelling’s career had burgeoned after that, and now he was the “in” photographer of a wealthy and famous clientele. Society people and celebrities were all eager to expose themselves to the harsh eye of Snelling’s camera; maybe they found it refreshing to see themselves with none of the warts removed.

Now I stepped back and looked at the photo from a distance. An amateur photographer myself, I liked to think I was some judge of the art and, if I knew anything at all, the actual picture seemed strangely diminished compared to the reproductions I’d seen. It was as if the starkness of the surrounding white-on-white decor had leeched away all its rich emotion, leaving only a caricature in place of the anguished woman.

Snelling clattered down the spiral staircase and extended a five-by-seven copy of Jane Anthony’s picture to me. I slipped it into my bag and said, “I’d like to see Jane’s room if I may.”

He nodded and took me to a second stairway that led downstairs; as in many of San Francisco’s hillside houses, the bedrooms were on the lower level. Jane’s room was at the end of the hall. Snelling pushed the door open and motioned me in.

The first thing that struck me was the room’s extreme tidiness. I myself am a finicky housekeeper-I have to be, living in a studio apartment with all my worldly goods-but this room bore the mark of a fanatic. The double bed would have passed a military inspection; perfume bottles, comb, brush, and mirror were perfectly aligned on the dresser; the spines of the books in the bookcase were straight and an exact inch from the edge of the shelf; even the wastebasket had been emptied. I went to the closet and found what I had expected-a row of skirts, blouses, dresses, and pants arranged by color and type. Shoes were lined up in a rack on the floor.

I turned to Snelling. “Mr. Snelling-“

“Abe, please.”

“Abe, let me ask you this-what is the relationship between you and Jane?”

“I don’t follow you.”

“Were you just roommates or…”

“Oh. Just roommates. I met Jane a couple of months after she moved here from Salmon Bay. She has an interest in photography, so we hit it off right away. She’d hoped to get a job as a social worker but, like I said, they’re hard to come by. I felt sorry for her-she was working part-time as a typist and having trouble paying her rent-so I suggested she move in here until a decent job came along. Of course, I never realized she’d be with me for six months.”

“I see.”

“Not that I mind having her here,” he added quickly. “She’s quiet and considerate-and a good cook.”

I went to the bookshelf. There were textbooks-some of which I recognized from my days as a sociology major-and popular self-help manuals and a great deal of paperback science fiction. Taking a book out, I saw that it had been read, but carefully, without cracking the spine. I then went through the dresser and bedside table drawers. They were as precisely arranged as everything else-and devoid of anything personal.

“What about these friends you checked with?” I asked Snelling. “When did you last contact them?”

“This morning. They still hadn’t heard from Jane.”

“Do you know if she kept an address book?”

“A small one, in her purse. I looked for it, but obviously she took it with her.”

“Can you think of anywhere else she might have noted things, like appointments or names and addresses?”

He frowned. “Maybe in the front of the phone book. She scribbled things down in there sometimes.”

I had noticed a directory on the bottom shelf of the bedside table. Pulling it out, I turned to the front pages. There, in a bold hand that fit with the woman in Snelling’s photograph, were various notations-Gold Mirror, 18 th & Taraval…43 Masonic bus (to Geary)…SFG Pharmacy 12-8…Kelly Services, Market near 6 th…Cannery Cinema, cheap show Wed… The notations seemed to be the names of restaurants, shops, theaters, and bus routes, merely the details of daily life in the city.

I closed the phone book and replaced it, unconsciously lining it up with the shelf edge in much the way its owner would have. Then I turned to the window and looked out over the darkening vista of vacant lots and half- demolished houses. As before, I shivered.

“Pretty desolate, isn’t it?” Snelling said from the doorway. He hadn’t ventured into the room, presumably because of the phantom snipers beyond the open draperies.

“I noticed the demolition, of course. It strikes me as a lonely place to live.”

“Maybe but this part of Potrero Hill has the best weather in the city. Since I work only with natural light, good weather is important. Besides, it won’t be lonely for long. Those houses are being torn down to make way for a condominium complex; they’re building them all over the hill. I’m sorry about that, because I like the solitude.”

I had heard that Snelling was quite a recluse. In spite of his celebrity, the shy photographer was never photographed himself and even refused to attend exhibitions of his own work. It was said that he ventured out of his house less and less these days, insisting his clients come to his studio here rather than go to them.

I continued gazing at the view, wondering where to start looking for Jane Anthony on the basis of the few facts I had, until I heard Snelling shuffle his feet. He was still nervous about snipers, even if I wasn’t. I took a final look around the room and then followed him back upstairs.

“Are you sure you don’t want to bring the police in on this, Abe?” I asked.

“No!” He looked surprised at the violence of his own answer, then repeated more softly, “No. If Jane has just gone off for some private reason, she’ll be furious with me.”

He seemed excessively concerned with Jane’s temper. “She did go off without telling you.”

“I know, but she’d say she’s an adult and entitled to live her own life. Please, Sharon, can’t you find her without involving the police?”

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