“I’ll try.” I asked him for the names of the friends he’d contacted as well as Jane’s mother’s phone number and address in Salmon Bay. He got an address book and read them off to me.

“Do you plan to talk to Mrs. Anthony?” he asked as he followed me down the hall to the door.”

“It’s a good place to start. I’ll try not to alarm her. But, frankly, there’s so little of your roommate here-nothing personal at all-that I really don’t have any sense of who she is or what she’s likely to do.”

“Funny.” He paused, his hand on the doorknob. “I thought I knew her, but I don’t have any sense of that either.”

“Well, maybe her mother will fill me in.”

“Maybe.” But he sounded doubtful.

We said good-night and I went out into the crisp fall evening. As I started down the overgrown path, I heard Snelling chain the door and lock himself securely into his sanctuary.

Chapter 2

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a black VW parked nearby. It hadn’t been there before and, since it was even more beat-up than my own MG, I wondered if its owner had abandoned it. My question was answered when I drove off. The VW’s lights flashed on and it pulled out after me.

I turned off of Snelling’s street onto Missouri, heading for home, but I wasn’t very familiar with Potrero Hill and I quickly found that it had any number of streets that came to dead ends. In the dark, I lost my bearings and, at the same time, I became conscious that the same set of headlights had been shining in my rearview mirror for quite a while. They were small and close-set, and I wondered if it could be the VW I’d seen near Snelling’s house and, if so, why it was following me. Possibly it had something to do with my visit to the photographer but more likely it was someone who had spotted me, a woman alone, and decided to play games. The best course of action was to get off this damned hill; I could lose him on the flatlands.

I came to Twentieth and went left. It was a through street, but it curved back, taking me even farther out of my way. Irritated, I jammed on my brakes and made a U-turn, my headlights illuminating a rustic board fence that surrounded one of the communal gardens that dotted the area’s vacant lots. As I went back up the rise, the old black car passed me. I tried to get a glimpse of the driver, but his headlights blinded me. When I reached Vermont Street I stopped, waiting to see if he would keep going or turn.

He made a U at the same spot in the curve as I had, then started back up. I put my car in gear and went right on Vermont, deciding to give this business the acid test. Ahead was the section known as “the second most crooked street in the world”-a series of esses actually more perilous than the famous Lombard Street on Russian Hill. I left the MG in first gear and snaked down between the concrete embankments, past a cypress-dotted park on one side and the brightly lit windows of houses and apartment buildings on the other. At first I thought the other car had given up, but as I hit the straightaway and put on speed, I spotted its lights.

In my years as a private detective, I’d tailed people and had been tailed in return, but I’d never experienced anything like this. It was the most amateurish job I’d ever seen. My inclination was to suspect kids playing a prank-but kids were never this persistent. If it was someone following me because of my visit to Abe Snelling, I wanted to get a look at him. I slowed and turned in front of S. F. General Hospital. When I looked back, my pursuer was gone.

I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved. Downshifting, I stopped for a light in front of the old red brick buildings of the hospital. To my left was the Blue Owl Cafe, scene of Snelling’s photographic triumph. Its windows were dark, the umbrellas on the little outdoor tables furled. The entire neighborhood had a quiet, shut- down appearance. Even the walls of ambulances were momentarily stilled. I gave the iron gates of the hospital a cursory glance, then did a double take. The black car waited just inside one of the auto entrances. Obviously its driver had known some shortcut through the hospital grounds. The light changed and I gunned the MG straight ahead. My pursuer pulled out of the driveway and careened across three lanes of traffic after me.

What now? I asked myself.

The amateurishness of the tail job had convinced me the driver couldn’t possibly be much of a threat-and that in itself could be dangerous. For safety’s sake, I decided to lead him to my own neighborhood.

When I reached my own block on Guerrero Street, I began to look for a parking space. I left the first one I found for my pursuer and took one closer to my apartment building. When I saw him slip into the space, I got out of my car, locked it, and glanced back. I still couldn’t see the driver through the glare of the headlights. I walked down the sidewalk, past my building, and glanced back again. A woman of about my height was getting out of the other car. In seconds, footsteps tapped behind me. I turned and ran up the outside steps of the building three doors down from mine, then flattened myself against the wall by the mailboxes inside the dark entrance.

The woman’s footsteps faltered and stopped just short of the entrance. I waited, barely breathing. When the footsteps started again, they seemed to be going away. Once more they stopped, then came back toward me with renewed speed. A figure came through the archway and ran up the steps.

She was slender, dressed in a corduroy jacket and jeans. In the dark, she missed seeing me. She had her back to me, scanning the doorbell buzzers on the opposite wall, when I stepped forward and said, “Okay, what do you want?”

The woman gasped and whirled, her hand to her mouth. In the gleam from a streetlight, I saw wide eyes and a close-fitting cap of blond hair. She stood staring at me, frozen.

Slowly the woman lowered her hand. It went to her pocket, and I tensed, thinking she might have a gun. All she did, however, was slip her fingers in there. Her other hand clutched the strap of her shoulder bag.

At that moment, the entry lights, which were probably on a timer switch, came on. They showed a woman about forty, too sharp-featured to be attractive. Lines of strain were drawn taut around her mouth. She glanced from side to side, as if surprised to find herself there. Her obvious fright relieved me.

She ran her tongue over her lips. “I…”

“Look,” I said, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to know why you’re following me.”

“I…I saw you come out of Abe Snelling’s house.”


“So I followed you.”

“Do you make a habit of following all his visitors?”

“I…no, of course not.” She took her hand out of her pocket and placed it on the other one, gripping the shoulder bag even tighter.

“Then why me?”

“I thought you might have been there to see Jane.”

“Jane Anthony?”

She nodded.

“What about Jane?”

“She’s a friend of mine. I haven’t been able to get hold of her. She missed a lunch date early this week, and I’ve called and called, but Snelling just says she’s not there.”

“But why watch the house?”

“Tonight was the first time I’ve done anything like that. I was thinking of going in to talk to Abe Snelling when I saw you come out.” She looked down. “I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

She was silent.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Schaff. Liz Schaff.”

It wasn’t one of the names on the list of Jane’s friends Snelling had given me. “Okay, Liz, mine’s Sharon McCone. What exactly are you afraid of?”

“I…” She looked up. “Can we go some place and talk?”

“Sure.” I didn’t want to take this stranger into my apartment, so I said, “Let’s go over to Ellen T’s, the bar on the corner. We’ll have a drink and you can tell me about it.”

She nodded and we went down the steps and across Guerrero to my neighborhood tavern.

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