The silence stretched out. He said, “Go on with whatever you were discussing, please.”

Looks were exchanged around the table. Adah said, “Actually, we should have invited you to this meeting, Hy. It’s kind of… a tribal war council.”

“Meaning what?”

“We’re Sharon’s tribe… family… whatever-”

“And we’re pissed off, going to find out who shot her,” said Sharon’s nephew Mick Savage.

Hy turned his gaze to Mick. The petulant, spoiled son of a country-music superstar had matured into a stand-up man in the years he’d known him. Hard to grow up in the shadow of his father, but Mick had managed-in spite of being a tall, blond version of handsome Ricky Savage, but without his father’s musical talent, ambition, or ruthless drive. Mick had found both his present and his future in computers and, owing to the revolutionary software programs he was currently creating with fellow operative Derek Ford, would someday rival Ricky in fortune, if not in fame.

Hy said, “So how do you intend to nail this person?”

The operative who replied surprised him: Julia Rafael. She and his wife had had dinner at a Mission district tacqueria before Shar had returned to the pier to pick up her forgotten cell phone. Julia was something of an engima to Hy. She’d worked the streets of the Mission district from age twelve, selling herself and drugs. Arrests, abortions, and the birth of a son whose father she couldn’t begin to name had followed. The boy had given Julia a purpose; after her final release from the California Youth Authority, she’d turned her life around.

Hy, ever distrustful of dramatic turnarounds-in spite of having made one himself-had waited for Julia to screw up. And when she was arrested for crimes that put Sharon’s license and the agency in serious jeopardy, he’d wanted to say “I told you so.” But Julia, vindicated, had turned into a fine operative. He still wondered at McCone’s friendship with her: Julia was insecure in the extreme and covered it with a haughty, sometimes hostile demeanor. But McCone was an excellent judge of character, so she must have seen gold in Julia that was yet to be mined.

Now Julia said, “We started on these investigations the day after Shar was attacked, with the idea that the shooter had to have some connection with one of the cases the agency was working. Otherwise why was he skulking around the pier at night?”

“He wasn’t looking for money or stuff to sell for drugs,” Adah added. “Nothing was taken.”

“Unless Shar interrupted him before he could take something,” Hy said.

“It’s possible, but this has more the feel of an instrusion by somebody who knew the pier, knew Lewis was a drunk and likely to leave his station for long periods of time. Your average thief doesn’t just walk into someplace with a lighted guard’s desk.”

“Or shoot his way out of the situation if he’s caught,” Julia said. “He’d hide-unless he was afraid Shar would recognize him.”

“Someone who had been here before, then,” Hy said. “Someone she’d seen. Not necessarily her client, but one of the agency’s, or a witness or suspect in one of the cases.”

Adah nodded. “That’s our reasoning. Anyway, we did an in-depth analysis of all cases going back two months. There’re a number that raised red flags. We’ve eliminated some, but there are several that still hold our attention. Why don’t you tell us about yours, Julia?”

“Okay. There’re two of them, both cases where the SFPD dropped the ball. Haven Dietz was the victim of a violent knifing attack a year ago that left her disfigured and with only partial use of her right arm. The other clients are the Peeples, Judy and Thomas. Their son, Larry, was gay. He disappeared suddenly six months ago. No satisfaction from the cops in either matter.”

Hy asked, “What’re the red flags?”

“Dietz and Peeples were friends, lived in the same building. He cared for her while she was recuperating. She was the one who recommended us to the parents. I sense there’s something she’s not telling me-about Peeples or her attacker.”

Adah said, “Let’s move on. Mick?”

“Have you heard of Celestina Gates?”

Hy shook his head.

“Identity-theft expert. Had a syndicated column and regularly appeared on national talk shows advising people how to safeguard themselves. Trouble is, two months ago her own identity was stolen. When the media got hold of the situation, they ridiculed her, questioned her credibility. The syndicate canceled her column, a book deal fell through, and the talk-show offers stopped coming in. Red flag is that I sense something wrong with the whole situation.”

“That’s it?” Hy asked.

“That’s it. But Shar would feel the same. When something’s off, we have similar instincts.”

Hy couldn’t debate that. Sharon had a shit detector that seldom failed her.

“Rae?” Adah said.

Rae Kelleher, the then-assistant whom Sharon had brought with her from All Souls Legal Cooperative when she established her own agency. Red-haired, freckled, blue-eyed, and petite. A part-time operative and author of three crime novels. Married to Mick’s father, Ricky Savage. Ricky and Rae were Hy’s and Sharon’s closest friends. No way she wouldn’t wade into this mess, ready to do anything she could to help.

“The Bay Area Victims’ Advocates is the client,” she said, looking directly into Hy’s eyes. “They’re concerned with getting solutions to unsolved crimes against women. This one’s a homicide, back-burnered by the SFPD. I’ll give you a copy of the file.”


Adah said, “Craig-your turn.”

Craig Morland was Adah’s significant other. A former special agent with the FBI, he’d become disillusioned with the federal agency and was eventually lured away from DC to San Francisco by Adah. When they’d first met, Craig had been a buttoned-down, shorn, and shaven man with-as Hy had characterized him-a stick up his ass. No one would confuse his former persona with that of the easygoing, tousled-haired, mustached man of today.

“I’m looking into corruption at city hall. Big-time chicanery, but I can’t yet figure out on whose part. My informant is very close with the information. Till I’ve gone into it further, I’d rather not reveal details.”

Hy said, “Hey, man, we’re talking about my wife getting shot.”

“And if it’s connected to this case, we’re talking about maybe more people getting shot. People close to us.” Craig paused. “I need a couple more days. Okay?”

Hy shrugged, suddenly feeling bone-tired.

The meeting broke up then, people standing and gathering their things as if on cue. Rae’s hand pressed his arm. “Come to our house and spend the night,” she said. “I know it’s hard to go home-especially with John there. John is not soothing when he’s angry.”

“That’s understating it.”

She urged him to his feet. “Lasagna and a feather bed-that’s what you need.”

“The hospital-”

“Will call you if there’s any change. Right now you come with me.”

He went. Lasagna and a feather bed sounded good. It would be better if he could share both with Shar, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Not tonight. Maybe not ever.



They had removed the tube from my mouth for good yesterday, and now were

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