It was Monday night and the drinking crowd was sparse, just a few regulars. I waved to one of my fellow tenants, a guy who did wood sculpture, and nodded to the owner of the new ice cream shop on the opposite corner. The shop was the latest in an invasion of chic businesses that threatened to change the simple, friendly atmosphere of my working-class neighborhood. Ellen T’s was one institution I hoped would remain the same-and I was reasonably certain that as long as Ellen and Stanley Tortelli owned it, it would stay a homey corner tavern, dispensing good food, good drinks, and, occasionally good advice.

I asked Liz Schaff what she wanted to drink and, when Stanley looked up from one of his ever-present crossword puzzles, ordered two glasses of white wine.

“Red’s better for you, now that the fall weather’s setting in,” Stanley said. Often the good advice came unasked for.

“White,” I said firmly.

He shrugged and went to pour it. When I paid, Liz tried to give me a dollar, but I pushed it aside. “Don’t worry; I’m on an expense account.”

Stanley rolled his eyes at the ceiling. Clearly, he didn’t believe it. As I led Liz to the back room where the old men played dominoes, I wondered why it was that those who knew me well refused to associate me with such items as expense accounts, first-class airplane tickets, and fashionable clothes. Looking down at my jeans and old suede jacket, I got my answer.

The back room was also Monday-night quiet. Four old men sat at the domino tables and two Latino youths were idly knocking balls around on the felt of a pool table. Liz and I sat in the far corner. I sipped my wine before I spoke.

“Now,” I said, “tell me what you’re afraid of that makes you watch Abe Snelling’s house.”

Liz ran a hand through her smooth blond hair, then began fiddling with one of her gold hoop earrings. “Well, Jane’s missing.”

But that wasn’t enough. “And?”

“And…” She paused, looking at me, and then her eyes took on a hard resolve. “And I’m afraid Abe Snelling has done something to her.”

“Done something? Like what?”

“Well, hurt her or imprisoned her in there or…”


“Or killed her.”

“Killed her? Do you know Snelling personally?”

She looked startled. “Uh, no”

He’s a photographer, very well known and respected.”

“All Jane ever told me was his name. And I don’t know anything at all about photography.”

“Well, believe me, your suspicions don’t jibe with his public persona. Exactly why do you think he would kill your friend?”

“She’s missing. Something’s happened to her.” It could be something quiet harmless. She may have gotten sick of everything and taken off some place to be alone. She might be with a friend-a male friend. She may have simply decided to disappear; people deliberately disappear all the time.”

“Not Jane.”

“You never know what a person is capable of doing until he or she does it.”

Liz shook her close-cropped head.

“You say you and Jane are friends?” I asked.

She ignored the question. “Snelling must have mentioned Jane to you. What did he say?”

I hesitated. Snelling hadn’t asked me to keep the investigation confidential. “That she’s missing.”

“Are you a friend of his? Is that why he told you?”

“I’m a private detective. Snelling hired me to find her.”

“Oh.” Liz reached for her wineglass. Her hand shook slightly as she raised it to her lips. She set it back down carefully in the indentation it had made on her napkin. The gesture made me think of Jane Anthony’s immaculate bedroom. “He must also be worried about her then.”

“Very worried. So you see, your fears are groundless. Murderers don’t hire private detectives to locate their victims, now do they?”

She smiled faintly. “Not in real life.”

That’s right.” I sipped some wine. “If you want to help me find your friend, you can tell me something about her.”

“Like what?”

“Start at the beginning-how do you know her?”

“We’re from the same hometown, Salmon Bay, near Port San Marco. I’m about four years older than Jane, but we knew each other growing up-everybody in Salmon Bay knows everybody else. And we worked together at The Tidepools.”

“What’s that?”

“A hospice, a place that provides care for the terminally ill. I’m a registered nurse, have my degree from UCLA. Jane is a social worker.”

“Where is The Tidepools?”

“In Salmon Bay, a little north of the village proper. It’s a rambling shingled building on the bluff above a beach with reefs and tidepools. The setting is beautiful, really, all cypress and eucalyptus groves. You’d never think, looking at it, that people go there to die.”

“And you and Jane worked there together.”

“For over five years.”

“It must have been depressing.”

Liz looked surprised. “Oh, no, it wasn’t. The whole philosophy of the hospice movement is dying without fear, and in dignity. At The Tidepools, the patients live out what time they have fully, even happily. Sometimes it can be quite inspiring.”

“When did you leave there?”

“Well over a year ago. There was…some…unpleasantness, and then I had a good offer form S.F. General.”


She shook her head and looked down into her wine.

I let it go for the moment. “What about Jane? Did she leave at the same time?”

“No, not until maybe eight months ago. She came up here without a job, hoping she’d find something in her field, but she found that they’re not hiring social workers. She had it pretty rough until Abe Snelling took her in. I tried to make her a loan but Jane’s too proud to accept money.”

But not too proud to accept Snelling’s free room, I thought. “Do you know of any place Jane might have gone?” I asked. “Friends? A boyfriend?”

“No.” She looked up, eyes wide. “That’s why I’ve been so worried.”

“What about home? I understand her mother still lives in Salmon Bay.”

“They don’t get along. I don’t think she’d go there.”

Briefly I’d entertained the thought that maybe Jane didn’t want to see Snelling for some reason and had asked her mother to lie to him on the phone. But if they weren’t on good terms…”You’re sure it’s that bad a relationship?”

Liz hesitated. “Pretty sure. Mrs. Anthony doesn’t approve of anything Jane does.”


“That’s just the way she is.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Salmon Bay is a rather provincial place. It’s basically a fishing village, but the fishing industry got automated and most of the individual fisheries went broke. People in Salmon Bay still manage to make a living, but barely. They just sit out there on their spit of land, mending their nets and dreaming of the good old days. Naturally, anyone who ventures into the real world is suspect.” The bitterness in Liz’s voice grew with every word.

“By ‘anyone,’ you mean Jane.”

“Yes.” She drained her wineglass. “Jane. And me.”

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