I shouted but wasn’t sure she could hear me over the wind and the surf. I shouted again, waving my arms over my head.

Then Liz turned. She saw me and shrank back, clasping her arms behind her.

“Get off that reef!” I screamed.

She shook her head, stepping backward.

I went to the edge of my own reef, prepared to jump and swim for shore. Turning, I tried one last time. “Get off or you’ll drown!”

Again she made the negative gesture.

I looked beyond her and saw a huge wave rolling in. It was just peaking. It would break right where Liz was standing.

“Watch it! Behind you!”

The wave broke over her. I saw her tumble. The foaming water rushed on toward shore, but I couldn’t see Liz anymore.

A second wave, even larger, was rolling in right behind it. This one would reach my own reef. I jumped into the swirling water and struggled toward the stairway.

Chapter 21

When I entered Abe Snelling’s hospital room, he was sitting up in bed reading this week’s New Yorker. He was pale, and his eyes were deeply underscored with bluish semicircles, but otherwise you would never have guessed that two days ago he had been fighting for his life. When he saw me, he smiled and set down the magazine.

“How’re you feeling?” I asked.

“Not bad. You?”

“Fine.” It was the truth; I’d been staying at Don’s since the night Liz Schaff had been swept off the reef and drowned. He’d encouraged me to indulge in wine, home-cooked Italian food, good music, and other pleasures. “I’m going back to San Francisco today for a trial where I have to give evidence, but I’ll be back by the weekend. I wondered if there was anything you wanted from your house.”

“Thanks, but my former sister-in-law already drove up and got me what I needed.” He gestured self-consciously at an arrangement of home-grown flowers on the bedside table. There was another bouquet on the bureau-a lavish combination of roses and carnations. I looked at it quizzically.

“From The Tidepools,” Snelling said. “Keller and Bates are probably afraid I’ll sue because I got stabbed on their grounds.”

I grinned and took a chair beside the bed. “The police told you the Coast Guard picked up Liz’s body?”

“Yes. Lieutenant Barrow and I talked for several hours this morning. He’s sure they can close the books on all the murders now.”

I sat for a moment, silently reviewing the victims of those murders. Probably Abe was doing the same. Then I said, “One thing I wanted to ask you-did Jane Anthony figure out who you were by your photographic style?”

He looked surprised. “Yes. How did you guess?”

“I’m an amateur, but I’ve got an eye for style. Yours is distinctive; anyone who had seen Andy Smith’s photos would wonder why Abe Snelling’s were so much the same.”

“That’s what Jane did. She knew my work from when I showed it in little exhibits around Port San Marco. One day she just appeared on my doorstep in San Francisco. She recognized me, in spite of how I’d changed my appearance, and demanded I take her in, plus pay her a monthly…allowance, she called it.”


Snelling nodded. “You know, when I first went up to San Francisco, it never occurred to me that someone would recognize me from my photographs. I was always afraid I’d be recognized by my face. In fact, that’s why I kept taking pictures-because I could go out on the streets and use a camera as protective coloration.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you’re holding a camera, people rarely look at you. Surely you’ve noticed that. They focus on the camera itself, or they get worried you’re going to take a picture of them, so they start fussing with their hair. The photographer is just the anonymous figure behind the black box.”

“Now that you mention it, yes, I have noticed.”

“It was ironic-Jane located me because of my work.”

“How could you stand to have her in the house, when she was blackmailing you?”

Snelling shifted and adjusted a pillow behind him. “At first it was awful. I even contemplated causing her to have an accident-slipping in the shower or something. But I couldn’t I realized that when my own wife asked me to help her out of her pain and I couldn’t. I guess Jane sensed that and, as insurance, she wrote a letter about who I was, saying she was blackmailing me and that if she died violently I would have been the one responsible. She left it with her mother, to be opened in the event of her death. But it hasn’t turned up yet.”

“I doubt it will. Mrs. Anthony probably opened it and, when she realized what her daughter was doing, couldn’t bear to show it to anyone.”

“Probably you’re right. Anyway strangely enough, Jane and I became friends of sorts. The kind of relationship a prisoner and his jailer might develop. We used to cook together. We’d talk photography and I’d let her help me in the darkroom.”

“And all the time you were paying for her silence.”

“Yes. I think she was putting the money away, with some thought of helping Keller out of his financial mess.”

“You knew about Keller?”

“Only that there was a boyfriend some place. I wasn’t aware it was Keller until you told me on the phone a few days ago.” He paused, his eyes clouding. “You know, if Jane and I hadn’t developed that friendly adversary relationship, she and the others would probably still be alive.”

“Why do you say that?”

“A few days before she disappeared, she was helping to organize my files. She must have seen the negatives of Liz Schaff at the Blue Owl and started to wonder.”

“Why did you take those pictures anyway?”

“I recognized Liz as someone I’d known at The Tidepools and felt I should document her presence in San Francisco. But then the robbery happened and the shooting started. And, what with everything else that’s gone on in my life since then, I forgot all about the negatives.”

“And what Jane saw in them was the same thing both you and I noticed the other day-that Liz was wearing a pharmacist’s smock rather than a nurse’s uniform.” I hadn’t even picked up on that when I had had lunch with her at the Blue Owl, because it had been a cool day and she’d kept her coat on. “Jane must have remembered that Liz also had a degree in pharmacy and had moonlighted at one while she worked at The Tidepools.”

“I guess so. At any rate, she took off a couple of days later. And she did have Liz’s hours at the S.F. General Pharmacy written down in her phone book, as if she’d done some checking.”

“Do you think she knew that Liz was in San Francisco before that?”

Snelling shrugged. “I think they may have had lunch a couple of times, but that didn’t mean Jane knew she was working in the pharmacy until she saw the negatives.”

So what Liz had told me about becoming worried when Jane missed a lunch date was most likely true, I thought.

Only she’d been worried about her own skin, not her friend’s. Probably she’d feared she’d let something slip at one of those lunches. “You hired me because you were worried about the letter Jane had left with her mother, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes. I was constantly afraid something would happen to her-a car accident, anything-and then when she just disappeared… Well, I had to know.”

“But when she was killed, you didn’t run.”

“I started to. I packed my bags, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve been a recluse so long that the idea of

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